JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Every year at this time the Pro Football Hall of Fame puts out their list of nominees for the year — it basically starts the process of selecting five modern-era players to be inducted.
This year there are 130 players on the list, including three Jaguars players — Tony Boselli, who has been a finalist for the last three years as well as former Jaguars Jimmy Smith and Fred Taylor.
Smith might well have already been in had he played a few more years. Instead, his career was cut short because of drug addiction, so being able to talk about being a Hall of Fame candidate while sober meant the world to him.
“It would be a huge cost accomplishment because most people who struggle with an addiction don’t make it back,” Smith said. “I’m just eternally grateful that I was able to overcome that. It was the hardest thing I ever had to do in my life. Compared to overcoming an addiction. Playing football was easy.”
Jimmy Smith put up some of the best numbers in the NFL during his 11 seasons with the Jaguars. But he has never been selected as one of the 25 finalists for the Hall of Fame. He’s hoping this year, he takes the next step.
“I hear guys who’s who complain about how the system is broken, how it should be. They should change the system to where it should be that the fans, the players, and the coaches, similar to how they do the Pro Bowl. Make sense to me, but it is what it is,” Smith said. “I’m just grateful right now, I’m getting overly excited. I’m at a loss for words.”
Smith’s five Pro Bowls are tied for the most in Jaguars' history. And it’s a longshot for him to be in the final 15 much less to be selected as one of five to make the Hall this year, but it’s his hope that the 53 selectors consider what he accomplished in his time.
The list of Modern-Era nominees will be reduced to 25 semifinalists in November and, from there, to 15 finalists in January. Then the Hall of Fame committee will choose the five individuals who will be inducted in the class of 2021.
Last year, Taylor was a semifinalist for the first time. His candidacy seems to be gaining some momentum.
“Just Looking at it, I think I am getting closer,” Taylor said. “Last year was a good feeling. I’m probably the most optimistic person I know, but I didn’t necessarily think that I would make the 15 finalists, but my fingers are crossed for the vote.”
Anyone who watched Taylor play in a Jaguars uniform knows how explosive he was as a running back. And every eligible player ahead of Taylor on the all-time rushing list is in the Hall of Fame. So maybe the tide is turning.
“There’s some stuff in place that hopefully can solidify a valid argument that will get me past the 25 into the 15, which is the next step,” Taylor said.
This has become old hat for Boselli, who has been close to induction each of the last two years. Boselli said in a text to News4Jax:
“It’s always an honor to be nominated for the Hall of Fame. Hopefully, this year, it ends a little different than the past, with me getting enshrined. It’s also really cool to have two former teammates part of the process with me. Both were amazing players and great teammates.”
This year, there are three first time finalists that will almost certainly be shoe-ins as Hall of Fame selections: Peyton Manning, Calvin Johnson, and Charles Woodson. That would leave two spots for the other 127 players to shoot for. Long odds, but things get a little more hopeful if they make the cut to 25.