JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Jaguars offensive tackle Tony Boselli is still waiting on his call from the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
The first draft pick in Jaguars history, Boselli’s fifth time as a finalist for Canton ended with no golden ticket as the wait stretches into 2022.
Next year could be Boselli’s year.
The first-time eligible players in 2022 aren’t nearly as robust as they were this year. Among players eligible for the first time on the next ballot are receivers Anquan Boldin, Andre Johnson and Steve Smith, defensive linemen Vince Wilfork and Mario Williams, quarterback Tony Romo and linebacker Demarcus Ware.
Another area player, former Lee High School and Green Bay Packers safety LeRoy Butler made the final 10 but wasn’t selected in his second time as a finalist.
The Pro Football Hall of Fame presenter pitches and voting were conducted virtually this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Boselli, who was selected No. 2 overall in the 1995 draft out of Southern Cal, played left tackle for the Jaguars until 2001. Injuries shortened his career, but he was unquestionably one of the best in the game when he played. Boselli was a five-time Pro Bowl pick and a three-time All-Pro selection. Shoulder injuries cut his career short, which remains the biggest knock on Boselli’s candidacy.
Boselli played 91 regular season games and six in the playoffs with Jacksonville. He was left unprotected by the team in the 2002 expansion draft and was picked No. 1 overall by the Texans. Boselli never played a down with Houston and retired that year.
Earlier this year, Boselli was hospitalized with COVID-19, spending several days in intensive care. His wife and kids also tested positive for the coronavirus. That experience gave him perspective.
“I want to be in the Hall of Fame,” Boselli told Jaguars.com. “It’s a huge honor. It’s a special group and the five guys who made it all deserved to be there this year. But considering what we’ve been through as a family this year, I said, ‘That’s OK. Let’s hope for next year and we’ll keep going forward and wish the people who did make it a big congratulations.’ I’m really excited for them.”
Next year, Boselli is likely to be a finalist once again. Then, we’ll see.
“It’s still very important and would still be a huge honor, but it’s not going to ultimately define who I am as an individual and as a person,” Boselli told Jaguars.com.
Butler spent 12 seasons in the NFL, all with the Packers. He was a four-time Pro Bowl selection and had 38 career interceptions and forced 13 fumbles. He had 721 tackles and was inducted into the Packers’ hall of fame in 2007.
While Boselli and Butler missed out in 2021, the area has enjoyed solid Pro Football Hall of Fame representation in recent years.
Raines graduate Brian Dawkins was voted in to the Hall in 2018 and Charlton County product Champ Bailey was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2019. Dawkins played with the Eagles and Broncos during his 16-year NFL career. Receiver Harold Carmichael, a Raines product, was a Centennial Class selection in 2020, an expanded class that included 20 selections to honor the NFL’s 100th year.
Before those three went in, Bob Hayes was the last local product to make the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Hayes was elected in 2009, seven years after his death. Hayes is regarded as the best athlete to come from Jacksonville. He won two Olympic gold medals in sprinting before going into the NFL. Hayes caught 71 touchdown passes during his 11-year NFL career.
With no locals going in the 2021 class, the next cycle should have three players with area ties getting more legitimate looks. Boselli is now a five-time finalist. Butler has been a finalist for the last two years and would seem to have a stronger case in 2022.
And former Jaguars running back Fred Taylor’s candidacy is sure to get a more in-depth look. Taylor has made the cut to the 25 modern-era semifinalist round in both 2019 and ’20, but has yet to make it to the final 15. Former Jaguars receiver Jimmy Smith was one of the 130 nominees last September but didn’t make the cut to the semifinalist round.