Hall of Fame journey: “He was a complete animal”

Jacksonville Jaguars tackle Tony Boselli (71) sets to blok in December  1996 in Jacksonville, Fla. (Al Messerschmidt via AP)
Jacksonville Jaguars tackle Tony Boselli (71) sets to blok in December 1996 in Jacksonville, Fla. (Al Messerschmidt via AP)

ATLANTA, Ga. – Tony Boselli definitely is Hall-of-Fame worthy.

That’s the view of many former NFL players and coaches, and it’s darned sure the view of former New England Patriots defensive end Willie McGinest.

“He was a complete animal,” McGinest said Wednesday.

McGinest, a two-time Pro Bowl defensive end and a current analyst for the NFL Network, spoke about Boselli during an NFL Network media availability ahead of Super Bowl LIII. Hall of Fame voters will decide the 2019 class Saturday morning, with Boselli – five-time Pro Bowl selection for the Jaguars from 1996-2000 – among this year’s 15 Hall finalists.

McGinest’s feelings on Boselli were formed long ago. He and Boselli are close – and the two practiced against one another daily from 1991-1993 at the University of Southern California, where both players were All-America selections.

“Going against him every day, he made me better,” McGinest said.

McGinest was the No. 4 overall selection by the New England Patriots in the 1994 NFL Draft. The Jaguars made Boselli the No. 2 overall selection in the 1995 NFL Draft a year later, also making him the first collegiate draft choice in franchise history.

“Our head coach (John Robinson) never allowed us to go against anyone else – in one-on-one drills, or anything,” McGinest said, adding of Boselli: “Just his ability – his footwork, his length, the length of his arms, his aggressiveness … The guy is huge and to have a great athlete’s skill set for a left tackle …

“He was one of my best battles. One because he knew me so well and saw me and practiced every day, but two because he figured things out.”

NFL Network analyst Brian Billick also discussed Boselli Wednesday.

Billick, head coach of the Baltimore Ravens from 1999-2007, coached against Boselli four times in ’99 and ’00 and called him a “great left tackle in this league and worthy of the Hall of Fame.”

Billick also compared Boselli to former Ravens left tackle Jonathan Ogden, an 11-time Pro Bowl selection and a member of the 2013 Hall of Fame class.

“He was a little like Jonathan Ogden in that when he made a mistake, he was so athletic he could make up for it,” Billick said. “You weren’t going to bull rush him. You just weren’t going to do it. But he was tough to get around, too.”

Billick, who called Boselli “very competitive and very tough,” also said Boselli was similar to Ogden in that he didn’t need help from tight ends or running backs in pass protection – no matter the level of the opponent.

“What a luxury that is to start the [game-planning] meeting and say, ‘OK, we don’t have to worry about tackle,’’’ Billick said. “We don’t have to chip over there. We don’t have to have to put the right end over there. That’s a hell of an advantage to start with.”

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