HOUSTON, Texas – Tony Boselli will learn Saturday if he is a Hall of Famer.
Boselli, the No. 2 overall selection by the Jaguars in the 1995 NFL Draft and a five-time Pro Bowl selection during a seven-year career with the team, is one of 15 modern-era finalists for the 2017 Pro Football Hall of Fame class.
The Hall-of-Fame selection committee meets Saturday morning, with the Hall class to be announced Saturday night – the night before Super Bowl LI. Five of the modern-era finalists likely will be selected.
Boselli, widely considered of the NFL's top players ever at his position, played just seven seasons before shoulder issues forced his retirement. Career longevity is considered by voters the lone real argument against his selection.
Major factors in Boselli's favor? He is the only member of the NFL's 1990s All-Decade team not in the Hall of Fame. He also was a three-time All-Pro selection, and notables such as Anthony Munoz – a player many consider the best left tackle ever – long have said that Boselli could be described the same way.
Boselli if selected would become the first Jaguars player so honored. Jaguars.com at Super Bowl LI this week spoke to five Hall of Fame voters about Boselli's chances:
*John Clayton, ESPN:"Obviously, Tony is a great player. Sometimes the shortness of a career can penalize a guy for getting into the Hall of Fame. Maybe because we have several candidates who are like that [this year], that opens a big door. That's why I'm so pleased the Senior Committee has [former Seattle Seahawks safety] Kenny Easley out there. His career was basically as long as Tony Boselli's, but unfortunately his kidneys blew up and his career had to end absolutely in his prime. There is momentum building for Tony Boselli. If it doesn't happen this year, you hope it happens in future years. But I think there's momentum building here. We'll see if he can either jump a Joe Jacoby, or stay ahead of Alan Faneca and Kevin Mawae. [If a finalist isn't elected in a given year], we're not saying a player isn't a Hall of Famer. Is Tony Boselli a Hall of Famer? Yes. But he's going against 14 other Hall of Famers and we have to say, 'No' to 10 of the 15 players who are out there. Sometimes it's a waiting game and a momentum game. There's definitely a push for Tony Boselli."
Rick Gosselin, Dallas Morning News: "I'm surprised it took him this long to get in the room. Tony during his prime was arguably the best tackle in football. He was an example of a guy who didn't win a championship and didn't have stats, and those guys tend to fall through the cracks. I was heartened to see him resurrected this year. He's certainly deserving. There are four offensive linemen in this class and all of them aren't going to make it. It's, 'When is it your time?''' It was huge that Tony got into the finals, because it's all about making cuts. You have to make the cut to 25 and then you have to make the cut to 10, then the cut to five. Getting to the cut to 15 into the room was huge. It's momentum and presentation. I've seen the room turn on a guy based on a really solid presentation. I'm anxious to hear what they have to say about Tony and I'm anxious to hear what they have to say about all 15 of these candidates. The fact that Tony is here, and the fact that it's a pretty young selection committee that all saw Tony Boselli play – it's fresh in the mind what a great player he was."
*Clark Judge, Talk of Fame Network and Yahoo Sports Radio:"His credentials are unassailable. When he was playing, he was as good as it gets. The question with Tony was not about how well he played, because everyone know he played so well, but how long he played. That's the issue, is longevity. Tony Boselli was deserving of All-Decade recognition. He was recognized as one of the best of his era. Now, the question is, 'Is he deserving of the Hall of Fame where longevity is an issue? That's going to be the question. The big deal is the fact that he's in the room. Two years ago, he wasn't even a semifinalist, which is one of the Top 25. It's all about making cuts. Now, getting in that room he's going to have his case discussed within that room. That's huge. That's really huge. People know who he is now. He's on the radar. People say, 'Wait a minute … we have some unfinished business here.' The longer he's in there, the more people are aware of it."
Paul Kuharsky, ESPN.com:"I think there's growing momentum for him. It's hard to read other guys in the room when you talk to them. Guys [voters] can say one thing and do another. It's a tough situation and everybody's making the case for guys. I think Tony has an extraordinary case. Longevity is obviously the big issue, but he was a three-time All-Pro in the era of [Hall of Fame left tackles] Jonathan Ogden, Orlando Pace, Willie Roaf and Walter Jones. That's a lot of left tackles from the same era, so that makes it complex. If he had played two or four more years, I think he's a shoo-in and he might be regarded as the best left tackle of all time. Then, it's a question about the longevity. I find him quite compelling. I tend to think he's a Hall-of-Fame guy. I don't know if he winds up waiting in line the way the process works, or what. But I feel like there should be a place for him. I'm leaning that way and I'm very interested to hear the conversation."
Sal Paolantonio, ESPN:I'm a big, big, big supporter of Tony Boselli. To me, it's not about longevity. It's about greatness. It is the Hall of Fame; it's not the Hall of Longevity. He achieved true greatness at the position and he was true dominant left tackle of his era. He started more games than [Mike] Ditka. He started more games than Dwight Stephenson. He started more games than Gale Sayers. All of them in the Hall of Fame. We didn't talk about longevity with them. We talked about greatness, and I think Tony Boselli achieved greatness. … He never got help [in pass protection]. He never gave up more than one sack a game. When you have a consistent level of greatness … and you have a coach like Tom Coughlin – who's harder on anybody than any coach – and he says, "no. 71 is my guy here … we don't have to worry about sacks.' That's pretty high praise. He has my vote without a doubt."