Shhhh! Keeping Hall of Fame honor quiet was a tall task for Tony Boselli

Former Jacksonville Jaguar Tony Boselli talks to the press during the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2022 Induction Announcement on February 10, 2022 in Inglewood, California. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images) (Rob Carr, 2022 Getty Images)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Tony Boselli answered the door and got the surprise of his life. He was going to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

How did Boselli celebrate? Silence. The honor came with a hush-hush policy for Boselli, who couldn’t let anyone besides family and a few close friends in on the secret.

That made enjoying such an achievement quite the task for Boselli until it was announced Thursday night at the NFL Honors ceremony.

“I’m not a good liar,” Boselli said on Friday. “My wife obviously is because she lied to me with a straight face and played [along]. She should get an Oscar for her performance.”

Tony Boselli answered the door and got the surprise of his life. He was going to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

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The first draft pick in Jaguars’ franchise history finally reached the Pro Football Hall of Fame, a career-making moment for both the city, the franchise and Boselli. He went in with another player from the area, Jacksonville-born-and-raised, LeRoy Butler, making it a heavy dose of Duval County bound for Canton, Ohio in August.

“He’s more of a Jacksonville son than I am,” Boselli said of Butler. “He’s a natural child. I’ve been adopted [by the city]. So you got the natural son and the adopted son both getting in together.”

Boselli had been Jacksonville’s strongest candidate to reach Canton, only to miss out five straight years. His credentials were never in question. Boselli was one of the best to play the left tackle position during his era.

The duration of his career — from 1995 until 2001 — was the only blemish on a sterling resume.

There were several people in on the secret that Boselli had been elected to the Hall of Fame. Boselli just wasn’t one of them.

Boselli said that he found out that he was going to the Hall of Fame when another offensive line great, Anthony Munoz, knocked on his door wearing a gold jacket. Boselli’s wife, Angi, was in on the moment and had kept it a surprise from him.

“I was like, OK, I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do here, smile, cry, you know, collapse, jump up and down, cheer,” Boselli said. “But that was the moment that just hit me. I was like, wow.”

Sixteen years after he first became eligible for induction, Boselli was finally elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Thursday night. For the first draft pick in Jaguars’ franchise history — Jacksonville drafted Boselli No. 2 overall out of Southern Cal in 1995 — he became the most obvious candidate for reaching Canton.

Had shoulder injuries not cut Boselli’s career short, he’d have likely been in long before now. The wait over the past five years of being a finalist were tough, although they’d grown more difficult for Boselli’s family.

“They’ve been crushed in the past. I mean, it’s funny looking back now, we sit in the hotel room and I get a phone call saying you’re not in,” he said. “The whole room would be crying. Except for me. I’d be sitting there numb and my kids all’d be crying. So, this just imagine the opposite reaction when they found out. They were so excited. They enjoyed the whole process. They’re here in LA with me. They want to be a part of as much as possible. So it’s been a neat family moment.”

Boselli said the most difficult part of the process this year was keeping things quiet when he had such big news.

“The fans are great in Jacksonville. I’d get notes and tweets, texts and everything else saying, ‘Hey, we’re praying for you,’” he said. “And I wanted to tell everyone to pray for something more important because it’s already done, I’m in. Save your prayers for needy people or something for yourself.”

On Friday night -- he tweeted out a special video thanking his fans:

About the Author:

Justin Barney joined News4Jax in February 2019, but he’s been covering sports on the First Coast for more than 20 years.