View from the O-Zone: Time for Tony?

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ATLANTA, Ga. – His appreciation for the moment is real.

His nerves are, too.

Tony Boselli knows from experience to expect both this week – and the former Jaguars left tackle said experience is holding true in the latest chapter of his Hall-of-Fame story.

“It’s not as fun as the first time, because the first time you’re really excited,” Boselli told jaguars.com with a laugh at Super Bowl LIII Wednesday. “But it’s still an honor, and it’s still huge.”

Boselli, perhaps the best player in the Jaguars’ 24-season history, is this close to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Again.

He’s spending Super Bowl week being asked about it. Again.

“I hope that next year when we’re on Radio Row doing this we’ll be talking about the Jags in the Super Bowl and I’ll be wearing a [Hall of Fame] jacket,” he said.

As has been the case the past two years, Boselli will work for Westwood One covering the Super Bowl. He’ll do that during the week and again Sunday.

His longest day of the week comes Saturday.

That’s the day Hall voters decide the year’s five modern-era inductees. Hall voters meet beginning early Saturday morning. Sometime Saturday afternoon, Boselli will learn whether he is in this year’s class.

If he’s not in, he will receive a phone call.

If he gets in, a knock will come on his door.

“There will be some anxiety on Saturday,” Boselli said. “There’s plenty of business [during the week working with Westwood One] but Saturday is tough.”

Boselli the past two years has been a picture of grace on voting day. As a lifelong NFL fan who still works with the Jaguars and Westwood One analyzing the league, he has an appreciation for the other 14 candidates. He also has an appreciation for being one of 15 finalists.

But make no mistake:

Not getting in the past two years hasn’t been easy.

“All of a sudden, you’re in a situation where you have no control,” Boselli said. “You’re competitive and what I hear the last two years when you don’t make it is, ‘You’re not good enough. You’re not one of the five guys good enough to get in the Hall of Fame.’ That’s not what they say, but in my messed-up brain that’s what I hear.”

How real are Boselli’s chances this season?

The answer: good. Even very good. He’s deserving, and many influential voters realize it. He has made the final 10 candidates each of the past two seasons, and the vibe among many voters after last year’s vote was more voters were passionately for Boselli than the previous year.

There’s no questioning Boselli’s reputation – or his level of play.

He is acknowledged as being as good or better than any left tackle of his era, an era considered the position’s Golden Age. Left-tackle contemporaries of Boselli’s such as Walter Jones, Willie Roaf, Orlando Pace and Jonathan Ogden are in the Hall.

Boselli, a five-time Pro Bowl selection, was a first-team member of the 1990s All-Decade team. He is the only first-team offensive player from that team not in the Hall.

Career longevity long has been acknowledged as the main argument against Boselli. He played 91 games over seven full seasons, by any measure a short NFL career.

That argument weakened two years ago when former Denver Broncos running back Terrell Davis made the Hall. Davis played 78 games. There are 32 players with fewer than 100 games played in the Hall.

So, why not Boselli already? Why wouldn’t he get in now?

One reason is of the 15 modern-era finalists, four are offensive linemen: Boselli, Hutchinson, Mawae and Faneca. The four, voters will tell you, at times have canceled each other out; the thought among many voters this week is it’s time to get at least one of those four linemen in and alleviate what many voters believe is a backlog at the position.

But the biggest challenge Boselli faces is what most non-first-ballot enshrines face – that with only five modern era slots each year, and at least double that many worthy candidates, every worthy candidate doesn’t get in immediately.

John Clayton, formerly of ESPN and one of the longest-tenured Hall voters. told jaguars.com this week he believes Boselli will get inducted. According to Clayton, 93 percent of players who make the Top 15 get in, and the odds increase for a player such as Boselli who makes the final 10.

“Whether it’s going to be this week, we’ll see, but ultimately it will work,” Clayton said. “If you make the Top 15, and you’re that good, you get in.”

Will this be his year? The guess here is yes – and that if it’s not, his year his year will come soon. Meanwhile, Boselli’s week rolls on. His appreciation for the moment – its bigness and all that it means is real.

And come Saturday, his nerves will be real, too.

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