When the Jacksonville Jaguars expansion picked the first draft in team history, the jerseys weren’t sold. They drafted an offensive lineman.
With the second overall selection in 1995, they took USC’s Tony Boselli. And it turns out that Jaguar still sells his shirt.
Boselli went from first pick in Jaguars history to first Pro Football Hall of Famer in team history. His candidacy has been debated for years, mostly because his health caused it. He played only 91 games during seven seasons. A shoulder injury finally forced him to retire.
The sixth time he made it to the Hall of Fame final, Boselli finally took the call. Jaguars get one of their own in Canton.
Tony Boselli was a great peak
The case for Boselli’s Hall of Fame was not easy. One of the main arguments in his favor ended with an increase in controversy.
Those who wanted Boselli in the Hall of Fame would point to a 1996 wild card playoff between the Jaguars and the Buffalo Bills. Boselli, then in his second season and out of his first five consecutive Pro Bulls, was faced off against NFL Defensive Player of the Year Bruce Smith. Smith had a quiet day without bags and the Jaguars won the bills. They only went to the AFC Championship match in their second year.
This year Smith questioned why Bocelli made a Hall of Fame based on a performance against him and said it “sets an appalling precedent”. Smith said that Boselli has been “a formidable opponent during his short career, but I find it difficult to compare his entirety to those of the NFL’s greatest left-handed tackle.” Smith argued that Boselli mostly blocked left-back Mark Brunel, so he wasn’t protecting Brunel’s blind side. Smith later backed down and told the Associated Press that he and Boselli were not at odds, and that he only liked Boselli’s campaign that pitted the Hall of Famer against an HOF member.
But Smith’s ordeal was illuminating in two respects. Boselli had a complicated Hall of Fame resume. But at his peak, he was good enough to shut out Smith, the only player in NFL history to have an official 200 sack.
Short-term domination triumphed.
Boselli’s career shortened
Boselli was a prototype left-hander. He was 6-7 years old, 324 pounds and light on his feet. He was a great player. Jaguar says it only allowed 15.5 bags in seven seasons.
Had Boselli played longer, the Hall of Fame debate would have been shorter. He was clearly on that path when a shoulder injury ended his career. He played in just three games for Jaguar in 2001, then was the Houston Texans’ first pick in their expansion draft. Boselli never played for the Texas team because of the shoulder.
The length of his career is the reason he made it to the finals six times, and wasn’t drafted sooner.
“I knew the big elephant in the room was the length of my career,” Boselli told Jaguar.com. “It was something that was discussed back and forth. It was hard because it was something I couldn’t control. I also knew I played more games than the other Hall of Famers. I got the debate, but it was always hard.”
The controversy is no longer important. Boselli will be inducted into the Hall of Fame. It’s also a big moment for Jaguar, and Boselli understands that responsibility, just as he understands the importance of being the first choice in the team’s history.
According to Jaguars.com, Boselli said, “It’s a huge deal for me. I am honored to be the first Jaguar representative to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.” “It’s humble. I will do my best to represent Jaguar and the city of Jacksonville every day.”
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