It was a long wait, but Jacksonville Jaguars legend Tony Boselli earned his flowers on Thursday after being named one of the five modern-era Pro Football players to enter the Pro Football Hall of Fame for the 2022 cycle.
What Boselli’s soon-to-be enshrinement in Canton means to him, the city of Jacksonville and other past Jaguars players shouldn’t be undersold, either. Being able to don the highly-coveted gold jacket, a credit to his incredible playing career is an accomplishment that can’t quite be quantified by word alone. He is the first ever Jaguar to get the Hall of Fame nod.
In speaking with reporters on Thursday and Friday, it was clear Boselli not only was honored to have his name called — by former Buffalo Bills, and legendary Hall of Fame defensive end Bruce Smith, no less — but also honored to do so as a member of the Jaguars, as it was meant to be.
Of course, this moment is about Boselli, it’s the ultimate individual accomplishment for a football player. But it’s also a huge moment, he says, for his family, including his wife Angi, their five children, his parents, including his late father Tony Sr., who passed away last year, and, of course, the Jaguars organization.
“It’s an organization, Jaguars organization, something I think everyone on this call knows I hold dear, very dear and close,” Boselli said last week.
“And I feel like since the day I got drafted in 1995, part of my responsibilities, I represent the organization, I represent the franchise, and I’ve taken that serious[ly] and I’ve tried to represent the right way my entire career, and then even post-career.”
Boselli has always represented the Jaguars organization from his playing career, selected with the first pick the franchise has ever made, to his post-playing career, becoming an ambassador and part of the team’s radio broadcast crew as a color commentator on gameday.
He’s also featured on multiple podcasts, and other radio hits on the team’s flagship station, 1010XL.
There’s no question what Boselli meant to the Jaguars organization, he was also the first former player to be added to the Pride of the Jaguars, an exclusive honor that includes the franchise’s original owners, Wayne and Delores Weaver, running back Fred Taylor, quarterback Mark Brunell and wide receiver Jimmy Smith.
Boselli’s legacy will continue to live on in Jacksonville, but now will live on in Canton, too.
It took a while. Boselli had to wait 16 years of being eligible for the HOF in order to be inducted. That was, by all accounts, due to the length of his career — just seven years — in the NFL. No one could deny he had the credentials as a player; Boselli was a three-time first-team All-Pro and a five-time Pro Bowler. He also was a member of the 1990s All-Decade Team.
Prior to Thursday, Boselli had to sit in a hotel room for five years, only to receive a call that he wouldn’t be in.
Through all of that, the battles he went through in waiting, the impact it had on him and his family, it was tough. But, Boselli says he wouldn’t change much about anything in his past. If he could change something it would be to have the ability to have played longer, and for his father to have been there when he did finally get the call. Nothing else.
“But those are things that weren’t meant to be,” he conceded. “And that’s OK. And I think, you know, our ups and downs and all the obstacles we face as people make us who we are. And I think all the things — the good, the bad, the ugly — have shaped who I am.”
Though Boselli wasn’t able to have his father with him when he ultimately received the call, he was able to hear from his dad via a video his wife took for him prior to his passing. In a story, written by NBC Sports columnist, Peter King, he mentioned the video shared, indicating it was part of a 24-minute video of those close to Boselli that included the reveal.
The video was shot just 12 days before his father passed.
“I would like to share with him how proud I am of what he’s accomplished throughout his years in football, throughout his years of being a man,” King wrote of Boselli Sr.’s comments to his son. “He is truly a great man.”
What is seen as one of the better parts of a player joining the HOF, a knock on the door, was perhaps even better this year. The knock, of course, is what a player is listening for in order to know they’re in. This year, after David Baker retired, it was different, though, and perhaps even better.
Unbeknownst to Boselli, his knock came from one of his idols, HOF left tackle Anthony Munoz, who is thought to be the best offensive tackle to play the game.
His wife had yet another tough task of keeping the secret from Boselli as he and his family joined friends for a get-together.
“She should get an Oscar for performance,” Boselli joked. The left tackle knew a couple of weeks ago that he was getting in, and he too had to lie to people in order to allow the NFL to do the reveal at their own time, another tough task for a man who does more in the media than the majority of his fellow inductees.
“I wanted to tell everyone to pray for something more important because it’s already done, I’m in,” Boselli said with a laugh. “Save your prayers for needy people or something, for yourself. But I couldn’t say anything. So I just thank[ed] people.”
Though difficult, waiting to say something just a couple of more weeks probably beat waiting years to be inducted for the legendary left tackle.
In a video shared by the NFL, Boselli’s reaction was priceless, yet again holding his hands to his face seeing Munoz, along with NFL Media personalities and crew to welcome him to Canton.
Now fitted for his jacket and bronze bust, along with getting a ring to show off his induction into the prestigious club, all Boselli has to do is wait a bit longer to make his speech. And as of Friday, though he did have an idea of who would officially introduce him on Hall of Fame weekend in August, he didn’t want to say.
Another secret he has to keep for just a bit longer.
Just how important the induction ultimately means to Boselli can’t really be broken down into words as much as it can through memories, moments and other unquantifiable things that he will and has gone through.
But, what it means for the Jaguars organization and the future of its players’ potential induction is important, too. Boselli, who paved the way for Taylor to run during the early part of his career, has now paved a path for him and players like Smith to get into the Hall later down the line. And he certainly understands that.
On Taylor, the HOF left tackle said there’s no back that he would have rather blocked for than him, “And I don’t think he ever got the credit he deserved. And you look at his numbers and what he did, I mean, he’s as good as anyone who’s played that position.”
Taylor, who retired from football in 2011, has been a semifinalist for the Pro Football HOF for the past three years, with his first coming in 2020. He has yet to make it over the finish line, but his credentials certainly have merit.
Taylor is currently No. 17 on the all-time rushing yards list with 11,695 yards, just behind Thurman Thomas. Among those ahead of Taylor, including Thomas, 14 are in the HOF. The only players yet to be inducted, Frank Gore and Adrian Peterson, aren’t eligible yet, but many assume they’ll be in once they are eligible.
Behind Taylor, multiple players have been enshrined, including John Riggins, O.J. Simpson, Joe Perry, Earl Campbell, Jim Taylor and Terrell Davis, among others.
But, what Taylor did during his era of football is outstanding, ultimately being outshined due to markets and popularity, as well as playing with some other incredible backs such as Eddie George, Marshall Faulk, Edgerrin James LaDainian Thomlinson and many others.
It should also be noted that among all running backs, there’s only one other player to average 4.6 yards or more per rush ahead of him with 2,500 or more carries: Barry Sanders.
Smith, who retired from the game in 2006, is one of the most talented receivers of all time.
During his era, 1992-2005, Smith was one of the most dangerous receiving threats in the NFL. He currently ranks at No. 25 in all-time receiving yards with 12,287 yards. He may have to wait for others to get in, such as Steve Smith Sr., Reggie Wayne, Andre Johnson and Torry Holt, all eligible this year, but the wait shouldn’t be too long.
Helping guys like that get in, along with representing the franchise as a whole, is what it’s about for Boselli.
“Like when I got drafted by the Jacksonville Jaguars in 1995, I knew that I don’t just represent Tony Boselli. I don’t just represent the Boselli family, I now represent the Jacksonville Jaguars,” he said.
“And I wanted that to be forever. Because it was important to me, and by representing the Jacksonville Jaguars, you know, I represent my teammates. And, and those that’s important to me. So it’s a big honor.”
Still, he hopes that one day guys like Freddy and Jimmy will get their flowers, as they should one day soon.
“I hope Fred Taylor gets the recognition he deserves, and how Jimmy (Smith), who was one of the great receivers — I mean, you know, anyone who played against them didn’t enjoy it that day — Jimmy was a great player. I hope they get the recognition they deserve in the future.”
In time, that might be true. While Smith has yet to crack the semifinalist list, he’s been listed among the nominees on a yearly basis for quite some time, he will likely see his name on the semifinalist list soon, and Boselli’s induction will undoubtedly spark it.
As for the future, winning sure does help things, Boselli admits, and if the team does start winning games, maybe then the franchise and future players will get their own recognition.
“I hope we start winning football games because that’d be good. For the fans, (winning) would be good for the organization. It’d be good for the players. Because I think we do have good players and, and sometimes being in a small market, you don’t get the recognition, maybe some of the bigger markets.
“The only way to fix that is by having success. So I hope we have more success as an organization.”
Now, Boselli can continue that, first being enshrined into Canton himself. The first Jaguars player drafted, the first Jaguars player placed in the Pride and now the first Jaguars player inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.