The list of Colorado high school players inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame is short: Fowler and Dutch Clark and Jack Christansen, who grew up in Canon City, respectively.
The list of Jacksonville Jaguars players in the Hall is even shorter: None.
That changes Saturday when Boulder-raised Tony Boselli becomes the third Coloradoan and first Jaguars player with the class of 2022 in Canton, Ohio.
“It’s a big thing for me,” Boselli said. “Boulder was a great place to grow up as a kid because everything was outdoors, which suited my desire to do something and be involved.”
Clark was appointed in 1963, followed by Christensen in 1970. It feels like Boselli’s wait has been that long — he was a six-time Hall finalist before getting knocked out by Anthony Munoz, whom Boselli considers the best left tackle. all the while, he traveled to Jacksonville to welcome him to the “Golden Jacket Club.”
A left tackle in the NFL, Boselli graduated from Fairview High School in Boulder and transferred to USC, where he was a three-time first-team All-America.
During an interview with The Denver Post, Boselli slipped out of memory.
Growing up in Boulder
The Boselli family moved to Colorado when Tony was 2 years old. Boselli’s uncle, who was 22 years older than Tony Sr.’s father, purchased a McDonald’s franchise in Thornton and hired Tony Sr. as manager. When Tony, Sr., retired, he owned over 20 McDonald’s locations.
Boselli: “I would consider us a growing middle class. We got a vacation once a year, but it was never on a plane—everyone got in the car and we drove. But we had a small boat and we water skied and snow skied on the weekends and in the winter. My father was a hard worker. Hard work was expected. You did it. It was from day one. I’d do landscaping outside (of places) and I probably started working in the back in the summer when I was 12 or 13, because if I wasn’t doing sports, you were expected to work. Before I graduated high school, I painted seven McDonald’s. The minimum wage was $3.35 and I thought that was the most money in the whole world. And they weren’t paying me a dollar more than minimum wage – no chance.
Tony, Sr., died of melanoma on May 31, 2021. However, before his death, he taped a congratulatory message to his son on his induction into the Hall of Fame.
Starting a football career
Always a “really big” kid, Boselli was troubled when he signed up for soccer at age 8. But his father falsified the registration forms and Tony turned 12 and had a dot on his helmet, meaning he couldn’t touch a football. He entered high school wanting to play quarterback. That changed quickly.
Boselli: “I started offensively before my junior year and had success, but I didn’t start either way. My goal as a senior was to be all-state because I wanted to have my picture on the wall at Fairview. I had a good senior year and could dominate when I wanted to. I had 18 tackles as a defensive lineman in the last game of the year, and that’s when I said, “There’s a lot more in the tank than you think.” Everything fell into place.”
Boselli started getting college calls and fell in love with USC as his family took annual vacations to Newport Beach, Calif. His final list of schools included USC, Notre Dame, Arizona State, Stanford and Michigan State. Staying to play for the hometown Buffs was not considered.
Boselli: “(CU) didn’t have a chance. I didn’t want to stay at home. I didn’t want to walk, run and do the same things I used to do in high school. Coach (Bill) McCartney was great, the program was great and people were shocked that I left. I wanted to go to either Notre Dame or USC. When my job came to book my trip to Notre Dame, they said, “We’re not going to offer you a scholarship.” I began to hate Notre Dame at that moment. I had planned to visit Stanford and Arizona State, but canceled after visiting SC. I went down to Los Angeles for my visit and it felt like home. We didn’t have as much success as I wanted, but I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything.”
Boselli was a backup left tackle for the Trojans in 1990, but did not throw a touchdown and redshirted. He was a four-year starter. In 1995, he was the first draft pick in Jaguars history.
Beating the Broncos
In the Jaguars’ second season (1996), they finished 9–7, winning their final five regular season games to clinch the AFC’s 5th playoff series. In the wild-card round, they went to Buffalo as an 8 1/2-point underdog and won 30-27, a game that went a long way toward Boselli’s Hall selection because it contained Bruce Smith. A week later, the Jaguars flew to Denver as a 12 1/2-point underdog to the 13-3 Broncos. It was a homecoming for Boselli. The team he cheered for as a child. The club his father still roots for. The Jaguars fell behind 12-0 early but rallied for a shocking 30-27 victory.
Boselli: “The Broncos were the best team. I remember flying there on Friday and I started getting sick. We land and my head explodes. I couldn’t see my parents, I couldn’t turn on the lights in my room and I felt like my head was going to explode. I went to the stadium (the next day) and still sick. I got four IV bags before the game and my face was (coach) Tom Coughlin and that’s what I love about him, he came up to me and said, ‘Don’t think for a second that you haven’t played.’ I’m like “Gotcha”. Hindsight 20-20, it was altitude sickness … for a kid in Colorado. “I played well against Alfred (Williams) that day, but if you put every variable in that game and what it means, it’s probably my favorite game of all time.”
A career-ending injury
Boselli was on a Hall of Fame trajectory entering the 2001 season. He missed just seven games in his first six years, played in two AFC title games (losses to New England and Tennessee) and was named to five Pro Bowls and three first-team All Pro teams. Boselli sustained a torn ACL and missed the 1999 playoffs, but played every game in 2000. He played three games in 2001 before dislocating his shoulder.
Boselli: “When I tore my ACL in the last (regular season) game in 1999, my shoulder bothered me a little bit and I felt loose, but I didn’t look at it on purpose because I was working on my knee,” he said. I came in 2001 and went to camp for two weeks, something that would normally be seen at the end of the season was now seen at camp. I have a torn right labrum in my shoulder. I played the Steelers in the opener and I played well and we won, but my shoulder didn’t feel good. My left shoulder would wobble and cave in and my right shoulder would hurt. After the first four games, I couldn’t get a cup of coffee in my mouth. I had surgery, rehab, and it got worse. “I tried to come back for two years and it was clear that it was over.”
Wait a long time
Almost 21 years after he played his last game and 19 years after he retired, Boselli will be presented by former teammate Mark Brunell on Saturday. Boselli’s 91 career games are tied with George Conner and Bob Waterfield for most games played by a Hall of Famer with 271; his brief career was as Broncos running back Terrell Davis (78 games).
Boselli: “It’s one of those things, that was my approach, and I said to my wife, ‘If I can’t, I’ve got to be OK.’ Every year it gets harder and harder because you get to the point where it doesn’t happen and it happens – it’s rare, but guys have been finalists and haven’t gotten there. I literally spent time alone trying to make up my mind because I couldn’t let the Hall of Fame make me feel bitter or less because who wants to live life like that? I would be disappointed and I wouldn’t like it, but I would be fine.”
Boselli, 50, and his wife, Angie, have five children, ages 12 to 24, and will be joined in Canton by family members, former teammates and coaches.
Boselli: “You can’t get to this point without great people in your life.”