JACKSONVILLE – We'll wrap Super Bowl LI with a final thought on Big Bo.
Kudos to former Jaguars left tackle and local legend Tony Boselli for handling the week with class and dignity.
Boselli, the first Jaguars player ever to be among the 15 modern-era finalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, did not make the Hall's Class of 2017, but he handled the aftermath of Saturday's vote with humility and professionalism.
Boselli moments after learning he hadn't made the Hall spoke to jaguars.com. Yes, he knows us at jaguars.com well and works with us throughout the year, but he was under no obligation to do "media" of any kind following the stressful morning/afternoon leading to the Hall announcement.
Boselli, who had agreed to speak after the announcement whatever the outcome, made a point to meet us in the lobby of his hotel minutes after the news. I had spoken to Boselli shortly before the announcement, telling him if he didn't make it, he could cancel the interview. When he approached in the lobby, I told him, "Last chance to get out of it."
He smiled, and while he was good-natured as usual, the disappointment was naturally real.
Here's the big point here: Boselli didn't speak to us because he knew John Oehser, director of broadcasting Patrick Kavanagh and senior manager of media relations Tad Dickman – or because he didn't yet know we had signed lunch to his room that afternoon. He spoke because he genuinely appreciates Jaguars fans – and because he understands that he's loved by this fan base and he values that affection.
The words he spoke were genuine, too. He talked of not being resentful of the other players who made it. He spoke, too – as he had all week – of being honored to be part of the process. Boselli as a player always respected the game, and valued his place in it. He certainly had the look of a man this past week truly valuing his opportunity to simply be considered for the Hall.
As for Boselli's future chances, the thought here is that they are good.
This was the first time Boselli had advanced so far in the voting process. He also was among those still in consideration when the committee trimmed the 15 finalists to 10 on Saturday.
That bodes well. No, there are no guarantees in this process – and everything starts anew for the Class of 2018. But this year's Top 5 players who didn't make it – Boselli, safety Brian Dawkins, cornerback Ty Law, safety John Lynch and center Kevin Mawae – figure to be strong candidates next year with first-time candidates including middle linebacker Ray Lewis, wide receiver Randy Moss, guard Steve Hutchinson, linebacker Brian Urlacher and cornerback Ronde Barber.
Lewis and Moss figure to be locks among the first-timers. But after speaking to Hall voters throughout last week, the thought here is that Boselli has as much of a chance as any of the other eight aforementioned candidates.
The other factor in Boselli's favor is the selection this past weekend of Denver Broncos running back Terrell Davis and Seattle Seahawks safety Kenny Easley. The only concern Hall voters have with Boselli is career longevity. The careers of Davis and Easley were shorter than Boselli, so that won't likely weigh as heavily on voters' minds in the coming season.
Boselli's closer than ever, and now he's basically on deck. Here's guessing his time comes next year or the year after. We'll see.
NGAKOUE NOT SATISFIED
Jaguars defensive end Yannick Ngakoue made his first trip to Super Bowl Radio Row Friday. While Ngakoue said he enjoyed it, he also said he's already looking to the future – and despite registering eight sacks as a rookie this past season, he believes his future is brighter than his past. "It's definitely not my ceiling," Ngakoue said. "I definitely didn't exceed my expectations, so I just have to go back to the lab this offseason, figure out what I was doing wrong and just continue to work." Ngakoue's eight sacks last season set a Jaguars rookie record, and his advanced, veteran pass-rushing technique impressed coaches quickly. "From watching film from 2016, I'll learn so much that I did wrong," Ngakoue said. "From the film you can tell what you need to work on as far as your hip mobility, as far as bending more with more power. There are little things to work on you can fix."
BIG YEAR FOR BORTLES
With Blake Bortles approaching his fourth NFL season, common perception is that this is a critical time for the Jaguars' quarterback. Jaguars veteran tight end Marcedes Lewis shares that thought, and said he believes Bortles' drive will be a positive. "This is huge," Lewis said Friday on Radio Row. "He understands that. Blake is not a guy who doesn't want to be great. He's not a guy who you bring in in the Top 5 and he just tanks it and doesn't really care. He's not that guy. He wants to be really good. I think he'll have a long career. If you're fortunate enough to have a long career in this league you're going to go through times like that. It's how you bounce back. He has his work cut out ahead of him. We all do. I'm looking forward to getting back in there and doing the little things right."