After waiting 5,983 days since he officially retired, signing a one-day contract with the Jacksonville Jaguars on March 20, 2006, Tony Boselli, who played for Jacksonville from 1995-2001, was officially enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, an honor that only 362 players in NFL history share.
Now, after becoming the Jaguars’ first-ever draft selection, second-overall in 1995, Boselli will be immortal in Canton, Ohio. On Saturday, Boselli took to the stage at the Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium to deliver a speech, one that lasted a bit longer than the allotted eight-minute time limit that the enshrinees are given, approximately 11 minutes and 28 seconds.
That’s okay, though, it’s a moment that the Pride of the Jaguars left tackle will be able to hold with him forever. A 1990s All-Decade Team member, three-time First-Team All-Pro and a five-time Pro Bowler in just seven seasons.
Boselli was presented by his former partner-in-crime, former Jaguars quarterback Mark Brunell, a fellow member of the Pride of the Jaguars, and a player that helped lead the Jaguars to four-straight playoff appearances (1996-99) and two AFC Championship games (1996 and 1999).
“It took about half a practice that he was the real deal and that he was going to be very, very good for the Jacksonville Jaguars,” Brunell said in his introduction of Boselli aired live on ESPN.
“He wanted to absolutely dominate his opponent that was a good game for Tony Boselli. And it happened more times than not just protecting the quarterback, yeah, that was pretty easy for him. But he was a fierce competitor and he was not gonna let anybody get to the quarterback.”
Boselli meant more to Jacksonville than just football. His contributions as a giver within the community in Jacksonville are worth celebrating. He set out to make sure that Jacksonville was a better place, Brunell remarked.
He did that in plenty of ways, including through the Boselli Foundation, a non-profit based in Jacksonville to provide support academically and athletically for local children with limited financial resources. He was vital for keeping the Jaguars in Jacksonville, too, part of Touchdown Jacksonville, which was revived in 2009 to keep the team in the city.
During his speech on Saturday, Boselli thanked everyone, his family, including his wife Angi, five children, Adam, Andrew, Alexis, Ashli and Ansli, his siblings, Jennifer, Michael, Liz and Lauren, his mom Candy Hodgkins and, of course, his late father Big Tony, Tony Boselli Sr.
He also sent thanks out to all of his former teammates, including Brunell, former Jaguars receiver Jimmy Smith, running back Fred Taylor, among others, former Jaguars right tackle Leon Searcy, left guard Ben Coleman and Jeff Novak, who was Boselli’s predecessor.
“I was so fortunate to play so many great jaguars, like Fred Taylor who made me look good all the time. And Jimmy Smith who not too many people could cover. And I hope one day both of them have a chance to be in Canton.”
He would also go on to thank some local media members who covered his career, including Sam Kouvaris, Pete Prisco, John Oehser, Gene Frenette, Dan Hicken and Jeff Prosser.
And two others, who he currently calls games with for the Jaguars, play-by-play and 1010XL radio host Frank Frangie and former teammate and color commentator for the Jaguars, Jeff Lageman.
“Thank you guys.”
He thanked the City of Jacksonville, bellowing out a “DUUUVAL” that fans are all too familiar with.
But, this moment was for Little Tony, a proud member of the Jaguars, and a respected member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
“The support and love of my family and all forms throughout my 50 years is why I’m here today as the first Jacksonville Jaguars to be welcomed as a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame,” Boselli said in the opening of his speech. “It’s a profound honor. And I think the hall for the privilege. And I thank you for allowing me to be your teammate.”
Boselli went on, of course, to thank all of his coaches during his rise to stardom during his collegiate years at USC with his first offensive line coach John Matsko, his head coach during his final two years at USC, John Robinson, and the OL coach he brought with him, Mike Berry, considered the greatest OL coach in USC history.
“They coached me hard,” Boselli remarked. “I mean, really hard, like miserably hard. They pulled something out of me that I had no idea even existed. It was tough. It was miserable at times. But you know what? Like all the people that God has put in my life, I would not have become the player or the man I am without them.”
In reminiscing about his playing career with the Jaguars, Boselli would make sure to thank former Jaguars owners Wayne and Delores Weaver, who brought the Jaguars to the City of Jacksonville, his head coach with Jacksonville, Tom Coughlin, and current Jaguars owners Shad and Ann Khan, Tony Khan, Sana Khan and team president Mark Lamping.
On Coughlin, Boselli made mention of his hard coaching style, but one that made them winners.
“It all starts with Tom Coughlin who, by the way, belongs on this stage really soon because there’s not too many better coaches than him ... Tom, you are paying to play for our time. So you were hard. You had high standards, a bunch of silly rules I never agreed with, you were difficult to play for, but you know what? I always respected you. And you made us winners,” he said to Coughlin, who was sitting in the audience.
In the end, he’s in, and that’s what matters. Though Boselli’s father couldn’t be in attendance, he ended his speech by thanking him. For everything. But, most importantly for what Boselli called the greatest gift of all, “that’s family.”
You can watch Tony’s full speech here: