MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. – Tony Boselli soon will learn if this is his year.
Boselli, the No. 2 overall selection by the Jaguars in the 1995 NFL Draft and a five-time Pro Bowl selection during his career with the team, is one of 15 modern-era finalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame's 2018 class.
It's the second consecutive year Boselli has been a Hall finalist, his third year as a semifinalist. He was among the final 10 for consideration last year.
The Hall-of-Fame selection committee meets Saturday morning and afternoon, with the '18 Hall class to be announced Saturday night – the night before Super Bowl LII. Five of the modern-era finalists likely will be selected.
Boselli, widely considered of the best left tackles in NFL history, played just a little more than six seasons before shoulder issues forced his retirement. Career longevity for several years was considered by voters an argument against his selection, but many voters believe the enshrinement last year of former Denver Broncos running back Terrell Davis – who, like Boselli, had his career cut short by injuries – could factor in Boselli's favor this year.
Other 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 LII this week spoke to six Hall of Fame voters about Boselli's chances:
*Vic Carucci: Buffalo News:"I start with this: does the guy belong in the room? Does he belong in the discussion? He absolutely does. Tony Boselli to me is Hall-of-Fame timbre. What I mean by that is, 'A, he merits the discussion. B, when you look at his career you find chunks of career that tell you he belongs there.' I watched him single-handedly handle Bruce Smith, who was unequivocally one of the greatest defensive linemen in the history of the game and a Hall of Famer. He did not get help. It's something Bruce Smith doesn't love to hear me or anyone else talk about, but it happened. When I call a guy Hall-of-Fame timbre, it means when that day does come for him, I'm not going to be surprised. I think he absolutely is worthy, but I've said that about others who are not yet in Canton. I really do think there is a place for him there."
*Peter King, Monday Morning Quarterback:"In this process what really matters is the logjam was broken last year by Terrell Davis getting in. He [Davis] had three intergalactic years and one very good year; Tony Boselli had six years of greatness and you could argue that in his period of time he was the best left tackle in football. I have respect for Jonathan Ogden and I have respect for Walter Jones. But Tony Boselli was the best left tackle in football when he played. Especially in this era, with the importance on left tackle and the emphasis on the passing game, I think Tony Boselli is absolutely, unequivocally a Hall of Famer. One other point I would make is I don't think Tony Boselli should just simply stand on the back of Terrell Davis and say, 'Now that we're putting short-career guys in, he should be in.' I do think there is something about his career at such an important position, and how he dominated his position. I will always go back to the game he played against Derrick Thomas the week after Derrick Thomas had a six-sack game. He came into Jacksonville and Derrick Thomas did not get a sniff of Mark Brunell the whole day. Tony Boselli eradicated him from the game. I watched every snap. That was what I covered that week. I covered the Jaguars against the [Kansas City] Chiefs, but I didn't cover the game. I covered the matchup of the best pass rusher and the best left tackle – and the best left tackle made Derrick Thomas invisible. He did that on more than one occasion. I think he's a Hall of Famer. "
*Clark Judge, Talk of Fame Network:"Momentum does matter, because when you go into the Top 10 you're on the launching pad for the next year – and next year is this year. Tony goes from a finalist to a Top 10 finalist, so you go, 'Whoa. He's a guy we seriously have to consider.' He's one of two left tackles; we love left tackles as a Hall of Fame committee; four of the past six years a left tackle has gone in. There's Joe Jacoby and Tony Boselli, so Joe Jacoby is his competition. The problem there is this is Jacoby is in his 20th year of eligibility as a modern-era candidate. If he doesn't make it now, he's done with the modern era and he goes into the great abyss of the senior pool – and the senior pool has so many qualified guys that you sometimes never get out. So, if you think Joe Jacoby belongs in, you vote him now and you say, 'Hey, Tony Boselli can wait a year.' One of those two is going on. The room last year said, 'Yes, he [Boselli] is a Hall of Famer whether it's next year or this year; he was a dominant player when he played and to me, the Terrell Davis election changed everything. Before you could say, 'Tony Boselli had a short career … cut short by injury.' Now, it's, 'Wait a second … Terrell Davis had a shorter career cut short by injury.' Now it's, 'In the time he [Boselli] played was he a dominant player? Did he have an impact?' Of course he did. There might not have been a better left tackle. That's what the room told you last year, that we think so much of this guy that despite that short career we think this guy is Hall of Fame worthy.''
*Vito Stellino, VitoStellino.com:"He made the final 10 last year, so there's kind of a natural projection that maybe this year he makes the final five. But it's very difficult. You've got [middle linebacker] Ray Lewis, who's a slam dunk, so now you're down to four slots. There are a lot of offensive linemen. Some people like [wide receiver] Randy Moss; I don't see why we have to put him in his first year. Lynn Swann and John Stallworth waited 15 years and they made plays that won championships and they played hard all the time. But if he [Moss] gets in, that's three slots [remaining]. The math is difficult this year. But there are positive vibes about Boselli. He definitely has a shot. There were five offensive linemen in his era and the other four are in. I always say, 'I'm not going to say he was better than so and so, but if you rank them one through five, he's not [No.] five. Until Terrell Davis, I didn't promote Boselli. I just figured there was such a prejudice against short careers. That's when I started making the push: 'Hey, if we're going to look at Terrell we should at least get Tony in the room.' We made that hurdle. Now, we'll see what happens Saturday. I told Tony, 'You're going to make it eventually – whether it's next year, the next year or the following year.'"
*Sal Paolantonio, ESPN: "He gained serious momentum last year. I consider Tony Boselli a Hall of Famer for sure. His game was Hall-of-Fame worthy on every possible level, from sheer dominance on film to his ability to take away the best defensive ends in the NFL one on one. Boselli's a Hall of Famer. [Guard] Faneca is a Hall of Famer. Jacoby had a Hall of Fame career – T.O. (Terrell Owens), Randy Moss. All of those guys who are Hall of Fame finalists with a couple of exceptions had Hall of Fame careers, but not every one of them is going to get into the Hall of Fame."
*Charean Williams, Pro Football Talk:"Momentum is absolutely important, and I do think he [Boselli] has it – I do think he got it last year. I think breaking through the wall of short-career players—we've had a couple now with [safety] Kenny Easley and Terrell Davis – getting in … I think that helps him. We've broken that wall. You don't have to play a minimum of 10 years. You don't have to get to double digits to get in. I do think he has a really good shot this year and I think we will put in at least one offensive lineman. With the momentum he built last year he definitely could be that guy this year. He was the absolute best at his position for a stretch of five or six years when he was healthy. He made an All-Decade team; this is the committee that votes for the All-Decade team and this committee voted for him as an All-Decade player. He has five Pro Bowls and three All-Pros, and his postseason career was outstanding. He checks every box except the longevity box, and I do think he gets in. It's just a matter of, 'Does he go in this year or does he go in next year or the year after?' His time is coming in the next two or three years."