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The voters speak: Boselli's Hall hopes

Former Jacksonville Jaguars player Tony Boselli is honored on the field during halftime of an NFL football game against the New Orleans Saints Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

MIAMI BEACH, Fla. – Big Bo's Hall time again is at hand.

Left tackle Tony Boselli, the first draft selection in Jaguars history and a keystone in the team's most-successful era, is among 15 modern-era finalists for the 2020 Pro Football Hall of Fame class. Voting will take place Saturday morning, the day before Super Bowl LIV.

This marks the fourth consecutive year Boselli has been a Hall finalist. He reportedly has been among the Top 10 among vote-getters the past three seasons.

Boselli, who played for the Jaguars from 1995-2002, was a five-time Pro Bowl selection and a second-team selection on the NFL's 1990s All-Decade team. He was named first-team Associated Press All-Pro three times, and was widely considered one of the premier left tackles of his era – an era widely considered the golden age of left tackles.

So, why isn't Boselli already in the Hall?

His career was cut short by shoulder issues, and his seven-year career often has been cited as a reason Boselli hasn't been enshrined. Voters interviewed by this week have indicated that's less of an issue than before thanks to recent enshrinees such as Denver Broncos running back Terrell Davis and Seattle Seahawks safety Kenny Easley.

Boselli is one of three offensive linemen among this year's final 15. One lineman – center Kevin Mawae – was enshrined last year, with Boselli and guards Steve Hutchinson and Alan Faneca the linemen among this year's finalists.

What are Boselli's chances Saturday? What are this year's key issues? spoke to multiple voters this week at the Super Bowl to find out:

*Sal Paolantonio, ESPN: "I'm a big supporter of Tony Boselli. Tony Boselli's a Hall of Famer. Tony Boselli should be in the Hall of Fame. We've waited long enough to put him in, and I think this is the year we've got to do it. The competition will be difficult. There are a lot of guys grouped together in sort of the same level of Hall-of-Fame status. It's going to be a close vote. The competitiveness of it now, is going to be tough."

*Sam Kouvaris, Florida Times-Union and – and Boselli's presenter to Hall voters on Saturday:"There was a good vibe last year as well – and even the year before that. There's not any disagreement on the selection committee about Boselli's greatness when he played. The only question is the length of his career and the length of his career now is less of an issue: Terrell Davis, Kenny Easley, [former Miami Dolphins defensive end] Dick Stanfill, [former Chicago Bears left tackle] Jimbo Covert and three other members of the [2020] Senior Centennial Class played less than 10 seasons. The committee seems to have changed their minds a little bit about how long a career you need to gain enshrinement."

*John Clayton, longtime NFL writer:"It's tough. You look at that list of 15 and tell me who doesn't deserve to be in the Hall of Fame. We're only allowed to get five in. If you get a couple of years like we just had – with two or three first-ballot Hall of Famers – that only leaves a couple of slots. That creates buildups at certain positions. We have a buildup at offensive line, and we have to get rid of it. Tony Boselli deserves to be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Alan Faneca deserves to be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Steve Hutchinson deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. The order is sometimes tough to accept, but as long as the recognition is there that that should happen, then it's got to happen."

*Vito Stellino, longtime Florida Times-Union Jaguars writer:"The good thing there is no Peyton Manning [among finalists] like there will be next year. [Former Pittsburgh Steelers safety] Troy [Polamalu] probably makes it [this year] but the field is wide open. The minus is they're holding him [Boselli] to a different standard than other guys who had shorter careers. Terrell Davis basically played three years. [Former Miami Dolphins center] Dwight Stephenson had a shorter career."

*Peter King, NBC Sports:"One of the things that for a while everybody thought was going to be deadly for Tony was length of career. In the intervening time, the career time for modern players is not seen as the same as it was 10 or 15 years ago – because of Terrell Davis, mostly. With Tony's career, you have to look at a guy who was acknowledged when he was playing as the best at what he did – and in addition, played a position that is among the four or five most challenging in football. He's not [Hall of Fame left tackle] Anthony Munoz [of the Cincinnati Bengals], but he is in the next level of anybody who has played in the modern era. That includes all the guys who are in the Hall – [Willie] Roaf and [Jonathan] Ogden particularly."

Stellino:"No one ever speaks against him on any issue except the short career. Nobody ever says, 'Well, he wasn't that good.' I didn't even start pushing him until they brought up Terrell Davis. You just never know. There are 48 people with different opinions."

*Clayton:"What's helping Tony is a little more acceptance of the shorter career. After all those years, Terrell Davis was finally able to make it. Kenny Easley was able to make it. What's great with Boselli is he is getting momentum now because there's less of a stigma on the shorter career."

*Kouvaris:"There are a lot of statistics you can point to in terms of short careers. I have all kinds of information on that in my presentation. Ninety-eight of 297 players in the Hall – 35 percent – played 10 years or less as a primary starter at their position. That's why I think you have to lean so heavily on the endorsements of guys he played against who are in the Hall, and guys who played the same position he played that are in the Hall. You talk to all the tackles: Ogden, [Orlando] Pace, Roaf, Jones, [Gary] Zimmerman – they all say, 'Tony Boselli was at least as good as me and probably better.' Then you talk to the guys he went up against … this year, [Hall of Fame defensive end] Jason Taylor came back and said, 'Hey, this guy is the best I've ever faced.' It becomes a numbers game on both sides. It's a numbers game on the number of games he played and it's a numbers game in that there are three offensive linemen still among the final 15 and all three made the final 10 last year."

*Clayton:"[Former Seattle Seahawks Hall of Famer] Walter Jones is one of the greatest left tackles who has ever played the game. He wanted a number. What number did he want? Tony Boselli's? That was the guy he idolized."

*Paolantonio:It's hard to judge. It's a quirky process. The fact that Hutchinson is there and Faneca is still there. What makes him stand out is he was just so great. His greatness in my view puts him at the head of the class. I feel like it has to happen this year. The longer you wait, the tougher it can be."

*Kouvaris:"From the Class of 2017, which was Tony's first year as a finalist … 10 of 15 finalists that year are now in the Hall. Your chance to get in once you're a finalist are about 88 percent. So, clearly there's a lot of respect on the committee. So, it's a numbers game. Do Alan Faneca and Steve Hutchinson deserve to be in the Hall of Fame? In my opinion, absolutely. Both of them are Hall of Fame players. Is Tony Boselli a Hall of Fame player? Absolutely. Did Tony Boselli play a different position than Faneca and Hutchinson? Absolutely."

*Stellino:"There were four offensive linemen last year and only one offensive tackle. Tackles are the Coin of the Realm now. They write books about left tackles. He was the best of his time for five years, and that's a long time in the NFL. And they voted in Mawae, an interior lineman. This year, you're going against Faneca and his nine Pro Bowls. To me, Boselli's the better choice, but I only have one vote. If Faneca gets in, do they pick a second offensive lineman or is it only Faneca? Or with Boselli, do they finally say, 'We've made him wait long enough.' It's just hard to predict."

*Clayton:"There's a value of a tackle versus a guard. The way he played tackle and shut people out was exceptional. He deserves to get in. All three are going to get in. It's a matter of when."

*King: "The fact that he's a tackle and other guys are centers and guards … I think you should get a premium for being a tackle. I'm not sure everybody shares my opinion on that."

*Kouvaris:"There are 15 players for five spots. A lot of people think Troy Polamalu will get in this year. That's about the only person who everybody feels like has a real solid chance. So now you have four spots for 14 players and six of the remaining guys are first-year guys. If you really break it down, this is clearly Tony's best opportunity since he became a finalist."

*King:"One of the issues when you deal with a group of 48 people is everybody has a strong opinion about various people. When I've talked to Tony, I've said, 'Do not have any expectations." You just don't know. Every year when I go into that room, I write down the five people I think are going to get in. I have never been correct. You might think John Doe has momentum going in, then all of a sudden two or three people say things and it changes. I hope the best for Tony. He deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. I firmly believe he'll be in there on day. I hope it's this year, but I have no idea."

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