‘It’s a huge honor’: Tony Boselli given key to the city

Ex-Jaguars star lauded for more than just football contributions

Tony Boselli was honored with a key to the city on Thursday at Jacksonville's City Hall. (Justin Barney, News4JAX)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – It’s a busy week for Tony Boselli.

Not Canton-week-type busy, but things are quickly picking up.

The first draft selection in Jaguars franchise history was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame last August and has a hectic weekend ahead. On Thursday morning Boselli was bestowed with the ceremonial key to the city by Mayor Lenny Curry, the first of three significant events Boselli will be the focal point of.

All the attention still takes some getting used to.

“It’s been a busy year, but a good busy,” Boselli said.

The first draft selection in Jaguars franchise history was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame last August and has a hectic weekend ahead. On Thursday morning Tony Boselli was bestowed with the ceremonial key to the city by Mayor Lenny Curry, the first of three significant events Boselli will be the focal point of.

On Saturday night, the Jaguars-produced documentary, “71,” a nod to Boselli’s jersey number, will premiere at the Ritz Theater. A day later, Boselli will be honored at halftime of Jacksonville’s game against the Texans where he’ll receive his official Pro Football Hall of Fame ring.

But the key to the city kickstarted the week for Boselli.

What does one do with a key to the city? What doors does that unlock? Boselli joked that he asked Curry that same question on Thursday morning. He is the first player with Jaguars ties to be presented with a key to the city.

“I got to take it out and test that. It might never come out of here so I might never find out,” Boselli joked. “But this will be in my office and it’ll be something I’ll cherish.”

There have been plenty of moments for Boselli to cherish this year.

Boselli got the knock at the door last January from NFL icon Anthony Munoz letting him know that his long wait for the Hall of Fame was over. Boselli, along with Jacksonville native LeRoy Butler, were part of an eight-member induction class last August. Before his election and especially since, Boselli has been feted as not just a Pro Football Hall of Fame selection, the first for the Jaguars, but an area treasure.

Curry said that Jacksonville’s affinity for what Boselli means to the area continues to grow with time. Younger fans who likely never saw Boselli play a down for the Jaguars know his name because of what he continues to mean for Jacksonville. Honoring Boselli with the ceremonial key is about much more than just sports, Curry said.

“Tony is Jacksonville’s first love. With the team’s ups and downs over the years, Tony Boselli is universally loved by the people in the city of Jacksonville, because he’s not only performed on the field which earned him the Hall of Fame, but he also has been involved,” Curry said. “He’s given back to this community and the city, and has given back to kids. He’s raised his raised his family here and he’s building a legacy here.”

Boselli played 91 regular season games and six in the playoffs with Jacksonville. He 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.

He was poised to lead Jacksonville for years and years at left tackle until a shoulder injury derailed his career.

Boselli 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. Boselli said during the lead up to his induction that he’s surprised how he was initially received in Jacksonville when Tom Coughlin made him the first pick in Jaguars history. He wasn’t a flashy skill position player. He wasn’t a franchise quarterback. Fans weren’t supposed to warm up to 320-pound offensive linemen like they were to a receiver or a running back.

But Boselli said the city embraced he and his wife, Angi, from the moment he was drafted. While they met in California when they were in college at Southern Cal, Jacksonville has become and will remain home.

“My wife and I, in the beginning, we started a foundation, we wanted to make a positive impact in this community. Hopefully we have,” Boselli said. “And so to be honored by Mayor Curry and the city, and to get a key to the city, it’s really cool. And I know it’s partly, obviously a lot to do with me making the Hall of Fame but hopefully a little bit of it is for what my wife and I and our family tried to contribute to this great community … it’s a huge honor. These are all special moments, and something I’ll always remember and treasure.”


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.