JACKSONVILLE – Tony Boselli's message is clear.
It comes from experience, and it's a message the former Jaguars left tackle hopes people heed: COVID-19 must be taken seriously. Very seriously.
"The thing is, it's real," Boselli said Thursday. "This is not a political debate. This isn't if you're on one side of the aisle or the other."
Boselli, the first player ever inducted into the Pride of the Jaguars, was diagnosed positive for COVID-19 13 days ago. He has spent five days in intensive care at the Mayo Clinic before being released Tuesday and testing negative for the virus Wednesday.
"Thankfully I recovered, but there was no guarantee," Boselli said. "You've got to take it seriously, and the main message is: These health care experts and workers that are talking about this? They're not making this up.
"Take it from someone who was in the hospital and had these people working on me: They're risking everything themselves to take of people. It's serious. It's real. We need to do what people are being asked to do."
Boselli emphasized that people must realize that the novel coronavirus can impact people regardless of age and medical history.
"I'm 47 years old, and I was completely healthy," Boselli said. "I got this thing and it knocked me on my butt. … I get when people say, 'It's a low percentage if you're healthy and you're young.' That's probably right, but you know what? You don't want to be on the wrong side of that percentage.
"Also, think of other people. There are people who have underlying medical issues like asthma and diabetes and compromised immune systems. We have elderly people, obviously. I can't imagine not being healthy and going through what I just went through."
Boselli, who played for the Jaguars from 1995-2001 and who is now a member of the Jaguars' broadcasting team, originally was tested for the virus March 18 – after experiencing symptoms of a cold and after learning he had been around an individual who had tested positive. He tested that day after consulting with physicians at Mayo, then was told two days later he tested positive.
"When I first got it, I thought, 'Oh, gosh, this is a headache,''' Boselli said. "I didn't think it was a big deal. I'm like, 'I'm 47 and I'm healthy. This is going to be three-to-five days, then I'll be back.'"
Boselli said his condition worsened over the weekend, then significantly worsened the following Tuesday.
"I thought I was getting better, then I woke up one day and I was going downhill fast,'' Boselli said. "That's when I was like, 'Holy cow … this is real.' When I went to the hospital, I thought I was going to get some fluids and some meds. They took an X-Ray and said, 'You're not leaving. You're going to ICU.' I'm like, 'What?' You realize that this stuff gets out of control pretty quick.
"Thankfully, whatever they gave me, it worked. Or something worked. Or my body fought back at the right time. But there were other people in that hospital that it didn't go that way. It's real."
And while he is now home and recovering, he said his thoughts remain on the issue.
"I'm really fortunate," Boselli said. "The people are great throughout the health care system in Jacksonville, and I was fortunate to be at Mayo with great people. … It's time right now to listen to the healthcare professional and the experts, and what they're telling us – that it is real.
"They're not making this up. It's time to really think about our community, and each other and what's going on around us."