By MARK LONG – AP Pro Football Writer
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Tony Boselli has a video to watch, a bonafide tear-jerker who is sure to turn one of the toughest offensive tackles in NFL history into an emotional wreck.
It’s a congratulatory message from his father, recorded 11 days before Don Anthony Boselli Sr. died after a 10-month battle with cancer.
Tony’s friends and family played it for him at a party celebrating his induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in early February. The 6-foot-7 Colorado native and former USC star nicknamed “Big Bo” couldn’t even bear to glance at the big screen.
The first pick in Jacksonville Jaguars history and the franchise’s first Hall of Fame selection buried his face in his hands, losing control as an ultra-proud dad gushed about his son who had a lot of hit.
“I get emotional just thinking about it,” Boselli recently said. “I still don’t have the strength to go back and watch it all.”
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He plans to do so, however. Boselli hopes to find the courage to play ahead of next Saturday’s Hall of Fame induction in Canton, Ohio. It will take almost six months to watch the full nine-minute clip, a relatively short time given that it took Boselli six years to get into the NFL’s most esteemed club.
Her father was there for every minute and step – except the last and most fulfilling.
“I know he would have been just over the moon,” Boselli said. “And so, selfishly for me really more than anything, it’s hard that he’s not here. But I know he was proud of me. That doesn’t take away from the fact that he was there every step of the way.
“But there will be a little void in Canton without him being there, but I know he is there in spirit. I believe he is looking down from the sky smiling and proud that his eldest son has entered the Hall of Fame.
Boselli, 50, credits his namesake with being a role model, mentor, friend and hero. Boselli Sr. taught his eldest son to water ski, snow ski, and do just about every sport. The elder Boselli spent all day running a McDonald’s franchise in Boulder and came home to play baseball, basketball or soccer with the kids.
Fostering a strong work ethic was always the main focus, and Tony clearly cared about that. It helped him through high school, college, the NFL, and in life after football.
Boselli was a five-time Pro Bowl draft pick in seven seasons in Jacksonville. His relatively short career was the main reason he needed six tries as a runner-up to get a bronze bust.
His playing days were cut short due to botched shoulder surgery, an injury that never allowed him to enter the field after the Houston Texans made him the No. 1 draft pick. expansion of 2002. Nevertheless, Boselli has the distinction of being the first choice in the history of two franchises.
During his tenure in Jacksonville, he was perhaps the best left tackle in the league. He allowed 15½ sacks in 91 games and was a three-time All-Pro (1997-99).
He took his game to another level against the NFL’s top competition, stifling stars such as Reggie White, John Randle and Bruce Smith along the way. He outplayed and frustrated Smith in a wildcard game in December 1996, holding the league’s bagless Defensive Player of the Year in Jacksonville’s 30-27 win.
Boselli gained even more recognition two years later when he roughed up and even taunted Miami’s Jason Taylor on “Monday Night Football.” Boselli and Taylor traded verbal jabs throughout the prime-time game, which the Jaguars won 28-21, and their highly anticipated game ignited when Boselli motioned for Taylor to follow him onto the field. after Jacksonville scored a late touchdown.
“I think he ended up committing a personal fault,” said Taylor, a 2017 Hall of Fame inductee who played 15 seasons in the NFL. “It was probably for unnecessary roughness because he was tiring my (buttocks).
“If they didn’t turn off the lights, lock the door and get everyone out of the stadium, I would still be here right now with him whipping my (buttocks).”
While those two games rightly deserve a lot of attention in Boselli’s career, his best game often gets lost in the shuffle. On November 8, 1998, Cincinnati cornerback Artrell Hawkins picked up Mark Brunell’s fumble at the Jaguars 40-yard line and appeared to be heading for a touchdown. But Hawkins started celebrating too soon and pointed to a 330-pound Boselli chasing him. Boselli ended up catching him at 15.
Six plays later, Jaguars cornerback Aaron Beasley picked up Neil O’Donnell’s fumble and returned it 90 yards for the score and a 24-0 lead.
“I hope that defines the whole team,” Boselli said after the win.
It certainly made Boselli, a hard-nosed left tackle who was willing to do anything to help the Jaguars win. He was a leader in the locker room and in the community, and he’s still an integral part of the organization more than two decades after his last game. He is currently an NFL radio analyst for Westwood One and part of Jacksonville’s preseason broadcast team.
The Jaguars worked with Boselli’s wife of 27 years, Angi, to shoot the video of Boselli’s dying father. Boselli Sr. had spent some of his final months near his son in Jacksonville while receiving treatment for melanoma. He died on Memorial Day 2021.
The team’s video team cut the nine-minute video down to a 90-second clip for the HOF party, with Boselli Sr. sharing his thoughts in a voice softened by cancer treatments.
“He was a really tough character. He was tough in every sport and in everything he did. He was the hardest hitting player on the team. Today Tony Boselli is a hard working man” , said the elder Boselli. “In fact, I often said to Tony, ‘Stop working so hard. You work too many hours and you do too much. He says, “Dad, it’s okay, because you were also a hard working man, and you supported us and you always showed us how to be that kind of character.”
“Tony was the most gifted athlete ever. I would like to share with him how proud I am of what he achieved through his years of football, through his years of being a man , and everything he did to get to this position. Because he did more than just play football to get to this position. He really is a great man.”
And now he has a gold jacket to wear and a moving video to watch.
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