JACKSONVILLE – Tony Boselli once again is a step away from the Hall of Fame.
Boselli, the first player ever selected by the Jaguars in NFL Draft, has been here before – four times, in fact. This is Boselli's fifth year as one of 15 modern-era finalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, his sixth consecutive year making the list of 25 semifinalists.
The 48 Hall voters will meet virtually on Tuesday, January 19, to vote on the class. Hall rules limit each Hall class to five modern-era electees.
Boselli, a left tackle selected No. 2 overall in the 1995 NFL Draft, played a little more than six seasons for the Jaguars – a total of 91 games. His career was then cut short by shoulder issues and he retired after spending time with – but never playing for – the Houston Texans.
It's the length of career that is most-discussed by Hall voters when debating Boselli's candidacy. His level of player never is debated; he made five Pro Bowls, was named first-team Associated Press All-Pro three times and was a second-team selection on the NFL's 1990s All-Decade team.
Many voters in recent seasons have said they believe Boselli's candidacy has been helped by the enshrinement of former Denver Broncos running back Terrell Davis and former Seattle Seahawks safety Kenny Easley. Davis played 78 NFL games and Easley played 89.
Boselli reportedly has been among the final 10 vote-getters the past three years, and many prominent voters believe he will be elected to the Hall at some point.
Could this be his year? What are his chances for the 2021 class?
Senior writer John Oehser discussed those issues with three Hall voters – Sam Kouvaris, longtime Hall voter and Boselli's presenter; Jim Trotter of the NFL Network and Peter King of NBC Sports. He also spoke with former Florida Times-Union Jaguars beat writer Pete Prisco, who long has lobbied on Boselli's behalf and is credited with educating many voters on Boselli's credentials before Boselli made the finalist list.
Those discussions can be heard on this week's O-Zone Podcast here, with a key quote from each as follows:
*Kouvaris: "For some players, there is negative commentary [from voters]. Guys will say, "This guy's not a Hall of Famer.' And there is some heated discussion in there. The discussion about Boselli has never been [negative]. Early on, it was about the brevity of his career. Once Terrell Davis and Kenny Easley were admitted to the Hall, that went away. Lately, it only has been a numbers game and how he compares to guys in the Hall. There's certainly a sentiment that Boselli has Hall-of-Fame credentials."
*Prisco: "The football guys in that [voting] room know how great he was. I do believe this will be the year for Tony, and it should be the year for Tony."
*King: "The majority of people who become finalists multiple times eventually get in. I look at the biggest reasons why I think he's not in and it basically comes down to length of career. Without that issue, we wouldn't be having this conversation. He already would be in. It's incumbent on people like me, who believe in Tony's case, to emphasize the history of players who have not had long careers and what their imprint on the game is compared to Tony's imprint on the game. That's some of the stuff I'll be working on prior to the meeting."
*Trotter: "It's probably fair to say I've come around [on Boselli's candidacy], but I did that a few years ago. Initially, I had some hesitation about the length of career. Then, I had to look in the mirror because I was one of those people who really pushed Terrell Davis. I had to ask myself how I could support one and not the other. Tony Boselli, when you look at his career, flat-out dominated – against Hall of Famers. The fact that he played 91 games might not sit well with some, but to me that's not his fault. It wasn't that he walked away from the game. It wasn't that there was deterioration of performance. It was about injuries and surgeries that took him away from the game."
For more on Boselli and the Hall of Fame, listen to this week's O-Zone Podcast here.