The franchise cornerstone took his place with the game’s greats on Saturday, long overdue but long deserved.
Tony Boselli, Jacksonville’s adopted son who made the city his home, is the Jaguars’ first Pro Football Hall of Famer.
Boselli was enshrined in Canton, Ohio on Saturday, using his time at the podium to thank everyone, from his high school and college coaches to local media who covered him during his early years in Jacksonville.
And, of course, there was a Duuuvalll chant at the finish from Boselli. But Boselli’s powerful words carried the same theme throughout.
Family is everything.
With his wife, Angi, and five children in the front row, numerous coaches and former teammates, and Jaguars owner Shad Khan scattered among the crowd, Boselli gave a deep and honest speech during his induction ceremony.
“Without the influence of family during my early years, my life in football isn’t happening. No way am I standing in front of you at this moment,” Boselli said. “But as a kid when you’re showered with love by everyone around you, anything was possible. So, I set the bar high, real high. Maybe too high.”
Boselli said he wanted to be a quarterback growing up, but that ended in his first practice at Fairview High School when coach Sam Pagano put the brakes on that.
Safe to say, that change worked out well.
Throughout his journey, Boselli said that family was the common bond that held the family together. He was a big brother who learned quite a bit from his siblings. Even though his parents divorced when he was young, that extended family just made it better. There were more aunts and uncles and good influences around.
“As far as mom and dad were concerned, divorce was never meant to divide,” Boselli said.
Boselli, drafted second out of Southern Cal in 1995, the first-ever pick of the expansion Jaguars, became the face of the franchise. It wasn’t easy though. Boselli said he didn’t like the way coach Tom Coughlin pushed him and treated him. He was rigid and he was a taskmaster, but Boselli said that tough coaching made him a better player.
“I’m indebted to our first owners, Wayne and Doris Weaver,” Boselli said. “Thank you for bringing the NFL to Jacksonville and making me a Jaguar.”
Blocking for quarterback, his best friend and Hall of Fame presenter Mark Brunell, Boselli brought an edge of physicality and nastiness to the position. His national profile boomed after his performance in the 1996 playoffs, including his shutdown of Bills edge rusher Bruce Smith first round of the postseason.
“First-round picks, you hope that Tom Coughlin got it right. And it took about half a practice to figure out that he was the real deal and that he was going to be very, very good for the Jacksonville Jaguars,” Brunell said in his presentation.
Boselli was a five-time Pro Bowl selection and three-time All-Pro, helping lead the Jaguars to the AFC championship game in just their second season. Boselli was poised for a decade or more of greatness with the Jaguars at the left tackle position — until it was gone.
The only blemish on Boselli’s career was the duration of it.
Shoulder injuries ended his career prematurely after the 2001 season and just 97 total games. The Jaguars, in salary cap purgatory following that season, made Boselli available for the expansion draft. The expansion Texans selected Boselli first in the 2002 draft, but he never suited up for them.
Instead, Boselli retired, ending his career abruptly. Even with the brevity of it by Hall standards, Boselli was a beloved figure in town. He stayed engaged in Jacksonville long after retirement and remains a visible figure in town.
“Tony’s legacy goes far beyond just what he did on the football field. Tony is he’s way more than just a football player. He means certainly more to the city than just what he did on Sundays,” Brunell said.
“This is something we all can celebrate because it was not just about football for Tony Boselli. He set his mind to be in the best Jaguar he could be, and he did that. But he also set out to make sure that while he was here, he was going to make Jacksonville a better place. And he has done that.”
The one person missing from Boselli’s ceremony was his father, Tony Sr. He was with Boselli for his previous five attempts as a Hall finalist but wasn’t there for his sixth one. Tony Sr. died on May 31, 2021, after a 10-month battle with cancer.
“Thank you, Dad. Thank you for everything. I’m happy you’re in the comfort of God. I know you’re here, but man, I wish you were here with me. I miss you. I love you. And on this, one of the greatest days of my life, I honor your memory, and thank you for the greatest gift of all, and that’s family.”