JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The process of getting former Jacksonville Jaguars offensive tackle Tony Boselli into the Pro Football Hall of Fame has finally gotten started, but it may be a while before he will have the chance to be enshrined.
The first step, though, has been accomplished: Boselli is now much more a part of the Hall of Fame conversation than at any point since his retirement following the 2002 season.
"Why there hasn’t been this push for him before, I don’t know, but you felt the push this year to get his name out here and get his name among the finalists and we’ll see where it goes," said Charean Williams, who covers the NFL for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and has been a Hall of Fame voter for 10 years. "... I think that voices were heard this year. I do think he needs to be in the room and needs to be discussed.
"If it comes down to having too short of a career, so be it, but at least he got in there and got his say. He was so dang good. Even though [his career] was that short, he was the best offensive lineman in the NFL when he played."
Boselli made the list of 25 semifinalists for the first time but missed out on making the list of 15 finalists, and Williams hit on the biggest potential stumbling block. Boselli played only eight seasons because his career was cut short by a shoulder injury. It’s the same hurdle that former Denver running back Terrell Davis faces, though he has been a finalist for three consecutive seasons.
Boselli may have had a shorter career, but he was very good for nearly all of it. He made the Pro Bowl five times and was a three-time first-team All-Pro. Boselli also was a member of the NFL’s 1990’s All-Decade team.
Boselli was regarded as one of the best tackles in the game during his prime. His career overlapped those of Willie Roaf, Jonathan Ogden, Walter Jones and Orlando Pace, all of whom are in the Hall of Fame. Pace is a member of the Class of 2016.
"I'd love to see Boselli make it into the room for discussion," said ESPN NFL Insider and Hall of Fame voter Mike Sando. "He was such a great player. It has always been a career longevity question, but with Dick Stanfel (73 games) being enshrined and Terrell Davis (78 games) gaining momentum as a finalist this year, why shouldn't Boselli (92 games) be seriously discussed as well? I think he has a good shot at enshrinement."
What helps Boselli is that there’s no longer a backlog of players that the HOF’s Senior Committee wants to push for enshrinement. Getting some of those players -- such as Ken Stabler and Mick Tingelhoff -- into the Hall pushed several other players’ enshrinement back a few years, but the voting process has now caught up.
In addition, there isn’t a long list of offensive linemen that deserve to be considered. Nine offensive linemen have been enshrined from 2010 to 2016.
However, that doesn’t automatically mean Boselli will be a finalist soon. Joe Jacoby, who played from 1981 to 1993, was a semifinalist for six years, including four in a row, but was named a finalist for the first time this year.
Still, Boselli is now a legitimate part of the conversation and if he can gather some momentum he can make it to the list of finalists, which would allow the two voters with Jacksonville connections -- WJXT TV-4’s Sam Kouvaris and the Florida Times-Union’s Vito Stellino -- to make presentations on his behalf.
Boselli said he is humbled by the fact that he was a semifinalist. He said he's not concerned that the length of his career could be hurting him, because it's something he has no control over.
"What’s that going to get me?" Boselli said. "It’s not going to get me anything. It is what it is. I guess the way I look at it, the guys I played against, the guys who watched me play the game, they always said nice things about how I played the game.
"That’s my career. I played it. What can I say? The people in that room have to decide what a Hall of Famer is."
Boselli said he felt privileged to be a semifinalist but isn’t worried about how long it may take for him to become a finalist -- or to be enshrined.
"I’m not going to tell you it wouldn’t be a huge honor, but also I have no control over it," Boselli said. "... I respect the process. I respect the process and I respect the people inside the room. It’s not easy.
"At the end of the day, you hope they pick the guys who they feel are the best players and who are most worthy of it. Again, it can’t be an easy decision."