RENTON, Wash. — In his previous occupation, the final week of August was a time Doug Baldwin would be in the final stages of preparing for the grind of the upcoming NFL season.
On Monday, Baldwin sat in an empty field, talking about the next stage of his life away from football and with a focus on philanthropy and helping others.
"The goal has always been to affect change in the world on a very large scale," Baldwin said. "I really do feel, and I know it's an ambitious statement to make and sometimes could be a naïve statement but as I think through what I want to accomplish through the rest of my life and also for my children I want to change the world in a positive way."
The former Seattle Seahawks wide receiver is no longer a football player, and one of his first projects in the post-playing career is spearheading construction of a community center in the Seattle suburb of Renton. Baldwin is donating $1 million toward the project with the goal of raising another $5 million in collaboration with the city of Renton.
"I think this center will be a portal where they can be seen, can be understood as human beings, can be recognized that there are things they need that can stabilize their lives or further their lives and this facility will present those resources," Baldwin said.
The youth center Baldwin is championing has been nearly five years in the making. Baldwin lived in the area near where the proposed center will be built during his rookie season. He found similarities in the area to his upbringing in Pensacola, Florida, but without a gathering point for youth. Baldwin began conversations with the city of Renton about ways to make a youth center a reality.
"This project is a personal passion," Baldwin said. "This facility that we're building it's very similar to a facility and program where I grew up back in Pensacola, Florida. It's a place I called my second home. There were resources and people that genuinely cared about me not only as a student and an athlete, but more so about me being a well-rounded human being. There was so much involved in that you can't really put a measurement around. I owe a lot to them, to that organization, to that facility, to that second home for me seeing the world the way I see it today."
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It was the first time Baldwin has talked publicly about his decision to step away from football — although he has yet to file retirement papers with the NFL. Baldwin was released by the Seahawks in early May with a failed physical designation after an offseason where he underwent surgeries on his groin, shoulder and knee.
His release was a transactional move, but its significance was final. Baldwin doesn't sound like someone who intends to return to the NFL.
"I think the fundamental question at the core of it was 'What am I trying to accomplish here?' with the thought process of not playing football again," Baldwin said. "Essentially what it comes down to is can my body do this and me still have a resemblance of a quality of life afterward.
"And at some point, I think at some point for everyone in life, whether you work at a desk job or you're a professional athlete, at some point you have to make a decision. Is this what is best for me and my family long term. And in some cases playing football or staying at a job is not. And that's everybody's personal journey and personal decision. That's the basis of it all."
Baldwin played his entire eight-year career with the Seahawks and finished with 493 receptions for 6,563 yards and 49 touchdowns in the regular season. He entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent and left as one of the core pieces of Seattle's championship run earlier this decade.
Baldwin said he's missed the camaraderie of being around his teammates.
"The receivers still come over to my house. They've been over to the house a couple of times so I still have that connection with them," Baldwin said. "I'm still present when they need me to be. I think most guys who retired say that, what they miss most is the locker room."