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View from the O-Zone: "I respect the game"


MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. – The wait could and should end soon.

That's the first thing to know as this week's Tony Boselli Watch begins – that the result the best player in Jaguars history deserves indeed may come in Minneapolis Saturday evening.

Big Bo belongs in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Make no mistake about that.

But here's another thing to know – and credit Boselli for understanding this and behaving as such when it matters most: That while on Saturday he can become the Jaguars' first Pro Football Hall of Famer, it speaks to the prestige of the honor that he might not get in.

Boselli understands, and he's OK with it. He explained why this week:

"I really respect the guys who played this game, and what it takes to play this game. For the 14 guys who are on this list with me, I respect what they did. Every one of them, you can make a case for them being one of the five guys who gets to put a gold jacket on this year. If it's me, obviously I'll be ecstatic – and what an honor. If it's not, I'll be happy for those guys because they deserve it."

Remember that quote if you're following Boselli's story this week, and remember it Saturday if you're one of many Jaguars fans waiting to see if the franchise's first great player becomes one of five modern-era players named to the 2018 Pro Football Hall of Fame class.

If he indeed gets in Saturday, it's part of what will make you feel good that he did.

If he doesn't, you'll know why he can deal with disappointment with class.

Quickly, let's set up the week:

Boselli, the No. 2 overall selection by the Jaguars in their first collegiate draft in 1995, appears closer to the Hall of Fame as ever has been the case. He's a semifinalist for the third time, and he's in the 15 modern-era finalists for the second time.

He also made the exclusive final 10 nominees last season in his first year as a finalist.

Those who follow the Hall of Fame process closely tell you momentum can matter. If so, Boselli clearly has it. Many voters after last year's process in Houston, Texas, said they liked Boselli's chances for enshrinement soon, and nothing has happened since to end that vibe.

Still, nothing is guaranteed in this process. Forty-eight voters will enter a room Saturday – a day before Super Bowl LII – and the five modern-era inductees along with senior and contributor inductees will be announced that evening. Names typically began leaking out that afternoon, and it's rare that those names don't include surprises.

A look at this year's candidates reveals a couple of apparent locks such as Ray Lewis and Randy Moss, but Boselli's status in the Top 10 last year and as a player who appears to be gaining momentum among voters gives him a real chance.

But if his wait doesn't end Saturday, no one will have been done wrong – and it won't make Hall voters evil, biased or even uninformed. It will mean it's hard to become a Hall of Famer.

And you know what? It ought to be.

Boselli gets this – and to his credit, carried himself as such last February. When he spoke to moments after learning 2017 was not to be his year, he understandably was disappointed. He also peppered his comments with the idea that the five players named were deserving.

And that's a point that shouldn't be lost:

This isn't Pro Bowl voting where a player might make the game despite other players raising eyebrows at their presence. Players and coaches don't fluke their way to the final 15 Hall-of-Fame finalists, and when the competition is the best of the best, some of the best win and some do not.

"People always get on the voters, but I tell people, 'All right: there are 48 guys sitting in a room looking at a group of guys making a judgement about who deserves to go and who doesn't,''' Boselli said. "Take away your favorite team and your biases and make that decision … that's not easy. Everyone says, 'The process should change.' Tell me a process that makes it better. It's a subjective process and it's a hard one. I respect it and I respect the game and I respect the guys who played the game.

"I'm not going to lie: Will I be disappointed if I don't get in? Sure. It's human nature. But I'm not going to be mad and I'm not going to look down on the guys who made it thinking, 'I should be in there instead of them.' That's ridiculous.''

The thought here is this will be Boselli's year. If so, great for him – and great for the Jaguars. Big Bo deserves the Hall. But if his wait happens to continue, it won't prove anything except that making the Hall is really hard. Just as it ought to be.

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