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View from the O-Zone: Big step for Boselli


HOUSTON, Texas – This was a start. A really good start.

That's the long-term thing for Jaguars fans to remember after Tony Boselli was not named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2017 on Saturday.

Should Boselli have gotten in? Is he Hall-of-Fame worthy?

Does this writer and many, many others believe the first drafted player in Jaguars history should have on Saturday become the first player in franchise history to receive pro football's highest honor?

Yes, no doubt and absolutely.

But the reality is there are many very worthy Hall candidates every year and not nearly enough space to honor them all – and as it turned out, this was not Boselli's year.

"Obviously you're a little disappointed and you get excited about it because of all the talk and everything else," Boselli, who will work Super Bowl LI Sunday as part of Westwood One Radio's coverage team, told shortly after learning of Saturday's voting result.

"But I've said it before and it hasn't changed: if it happened, it would be life-changing and it was going to be huge. If it didn't, I'm still going to wake up tomorrow and I'm going to go call the Super Bowl and go to work. It doesn't change one thing about my career."

Boselli talked throughout the week about savoring this moment – and mostly, he did.

"I enjoyed it up until about the last two hours," Boselli said with a laugh. "I'll be honest with you: the last two hours were not very much fun. You're sitting there and waiting for either a knock on the door or a phone call. The phone rings and it's a 330 area code with Canton, Ohio … you say, 'Oh, that's it …'

"Before I even answered the phone I looked over at [his wife] Angi and said, 'Well, it's not going to happen this year.'

Quickly, the details:

Boselli, the No. 2 overall selection in the 1995 NFL Draft and a five-time Pro Bowl selection, was one of 15 modern-era hall finalists this year. This was his first time reaching that stage of the difficult Hall selection process after 11 seasons of eligibility. This was his second year as a semifinalist.

No Jaguars player ever has been selected for the Hall. Boselli is the first Jaguars player to be a finalist or semifinalist.

This is this year's modern-era Hall list: running back Terrell Davis, kicker Morten Andersen, running back LaDainian Tomlinson, quarterback Kurt Warner and defensive end Jason Taylor.

It's a good list. All five players are Hall-worthy. That's true of every Hall class, and Boselli emphasized as much minutes after learning he had not been selected this year.

Jaguars fans undoubtedly are debating the merits of the modern-era players who made it this year. Should Taylor have made it over Boselli? Andersen? Davis? This writer would make the case that Boselli should have gotten in certainly before Taylor. And Anderson. And others.

But remember: fans and writers in every city support "their guy" with passion. For every Jaguars fan bemoaning Boselli being left out, there is a Titans fan irritated about the exclusion of Kevin Mawae and a Patriots fans disappointed over the absence of Lawyer Milloy. And so on.

"They're all great players," Boselli said. "I don't begrudge whoever got in. I'm happy for them. They deserve it. They were all great players. We'll see what the future has in store. There are no guarantees, and that's OK. I've said all along: it doesn't change one thing I did as a player.

"We'll move forward and see what happens."

Here's the reality: it's really, really hard to make the Hall of Fame. That's why it's called the Hall of Fame and not the Hall of Very Good. There are five slots for 15 players, and voters this week talked of the need for more slots each year. With 22 positions and 32 teams, a case can be made that there are more than 50 players per decade worthy of enshrinement.

Here's the biggest reality about this week, though:

Boselli's chances are better now than they were two years ago. Or a year ago. Or even a week ago. He not only made the list of 15 finalists, he reportedly was among the final 10 candidates Saturday. It is said the Hall of Fame process is about making cuts, and Boselli this year made the final cut. He just didn't make the final five.

It's true as Boselli said that there are no guarantees for the future. The Hall process begins anew each year. But it's just as true that the Hall often is about momentum, and Boselli gained a bunch of it this year. He made it to the final day. Voters heard and debated his merits.

His status among the final 10 bodes well for his future chances. Very, very, very well.

Here's guessing Boselli's time comes in the next couple of years. When it does, it will be a big, deserved moment for this and the best player in its history. But make no mistake:

This was a start. A really, really good start.

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