By ROB MAADDI AP Pro Football Writer
Canton, Ohio – Tony Bocelli looked at all the teal shirts in the crowd and shouted, “Duuuuval!”
Finally, the Jacksonville Jaguars have a Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee.
Boselli, the first pick in Jaguars history, was among eight members of the 2022 class honored Saturday at the Tom Benson Hall of Fame.
“Thank God for football, and thank God for the people of Jacksonville,” Boselli said before fans chanted the name of their country.
The Jaguars played for the Las Vegas Raiders in the NFL pre-season opener Thursday night, so Boselli’s No. 71 jerseys filled the seats.
A five-time Pro Bowl pick and three-time All-Pro left-hander in seven seasons in Jacksonville, Boselli saw his career through injuries. But his dominant performance earned him a gold jacket.
“It’s a great honor,” Boselli said.
Linebacker Sam Mills, linebacker Leroy Butler, linebacker Bryant Young and Richard Seymour, wide receiver Cliff Branch, coach Dick Vermeil and CEO Finn McNally join Boselli in a class of men who have waited several years — some decades — for a call.
Young delivered the most emotional speech when he broke down in honor of his son Colby, who died of childhood cancer at the age of 15 in 2016.
“We assured Colby that we would keep his memory alive and would continue to speak on his behalf,” Young said. “Colby, you live long in our hearts.”
Young, who excelled at defensive tackle in an era filled with talent in this position, had 89 1/2 sacks and picked up four Pro Bowl selections in a 14-year career spent entirely with the San Francisco 49ers.
Vermeil gave the longest speech, exceeding the 8-minute limit by 15 minutes. The former Philadelphia Eagles coach, St. Louis Rams, and Kansas City Chiefs seemed to thank everyone who helped him hit the stage.
He attributed his success to players and specifically referred to fellow Hall of Famers Kurt Warner and Isaac Bruce, who were on Vermeil’s Super Bowl teammates’ Greatest Show on Turf in St. Louis.
“Oh my God, I wish I had time to talk to everyone,” Vermeil said.
Then he did it anyway.
Vermeil concluded the ceremony. Butler started it all.
The All-Pro safety jumped four times with the same enthusiasm that he celebrated at Lambeau Field.
Butler began referring to the song, “DJ Khaled said it best: ‘God did.'” When you play with the Green Bay Packers, you open a lot of doors. When you win the Super Bowl, you open more doors. When you are selected into the Hall of Fame, soccer heaven opens. It’s a rare company.”
Butler drew cheers from the Jaguar crowd in attendance to watch Boselli’s instigation when he mentioned his upbringing in Jacksonville.
Thank you, Duval, Butler said. “My mother, who grew up in poverty, made us think about the rich every day because it’s not about what you have or what you have, it’s how you act.”
Butler helped relive the glory days of Green Bay during a 12-year career. His versatility as a safety set the standard for a new wave in the position and earned him a spot on the league’s All-Decade team in the 1990s.
Butler created the “Lambeau Leap” and had a key sack in Green Bay’s Super Bowl victory over New England. He failed to become the first player in league history to end his career with 40 interceptions and 20 sacks.
Mills, the 5-foot-9 quarterback nicknamed “the field mouse” during his 12-year career with the New Orleans Saints and Carolina Panthers, Branch was posthumously recruited. An inspiring personality, Mills overcame tremendous odds to make it to the NFL.
Mills played third-division football and was not drafted. He was snapped by the CFL’s Cleveland Browns and Toronto Argonauts and began his career with the Philadelphia Stars in the USFL. Jim Mora, who coached the stars, brought him to New Orleans in 1986 and Mills never looked back.
“He was told he wasn’t good enough to play college football or old enough to play professional football, and at 27, he wasn’t young enough to play in the NFL and yet we’re here to celebrate today,” Melanie said. Mills, Sam’s widow.
Mills became an assistant coach with the Panthers after his retirement. He was diagnosed with bowel cancer prior to the 2003 season, but continued to train during his treatment and gave what is known as his “Keep on Beating” speech on the eve of the Super Bowl with New England at the end of that season.
Mills passed away in April 2005 at the age of 45. His motto “Keep hitting” is still the motto of the Panthers.
Branch, who died just over three years ago at the age of 71 of natural causes, was one of the best deep-threats of his era with some of his biggest showings on the game’s biggest stages, helping the Raiders win three Super Bowls.
Branch made the first of his three consecutive All-Pro teams in his first season as a starter in 1974 and scored 67 touchdowns in the air.
“Clifford was late. He wasn’t turned down,” his sister and presenter Elaine Anderson said.
In a year when there were no candidates on the first ballot, recruits endured long waits to get into the hall.
Defensive intervention Richard Seymour didn’t wait long to get a taste of success in the NFL. He was part of three Super Bowl championship teams in his first four seasons with the New England Patriots.
Seymour referred to the defensive strengths of those teams but did not mention Tom Brady by name.
“We had a young quarterback, but we made it through,” Seymour said, drawing chuckles from the crowd.
Seymour had 57 1/2 career sacks in 12 seasons, his first eight in New England before ending his career with the Oakland Raiders.
“I’m steeped in humility because it’s not about what it says about me but what it says about us and what we can do together,” he said. “I am overwhelmed with gratitude that I didn’t come here on my own. Neither of us did. Neither of us could.”
42-year-old Seymour choked and thanked his wife, Tanya.
“Football is what I do, but family is who I am,” he said. “I thank you for everything you have added to my life. This day belongs to my family. The Bible teaches that your fortunes are in your family.”
Seymour called his three children “the greatest joy.”
“Of all I have accomplished,” he said, “there is no greater honor than to be your father.”
Seymour paid tribute to Patriots owner Robert Kraft, former Raiders owner Al Davis, and his son, Mark Davis.
He attributed his success to lessons he learned from Patriots coach Bill Belichick: Work hard, be meticulous in your preparation, support your teammates and respect your opponents.
“That would not have happened without coach Belichick,” Seymour said.
McNally gave a video speech after he was recruited as a contributor.
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