Jaguars Tony Boselli overwhelmed by father’s HOF announcement

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The moment he saw his father’s face and heard his voice, Tony Boselli dropped his head into his hands.

“I was in no … I wasn’t ready to go there at that time in front of everybody,” he said.

The first draft pick in Jacksonville Jaguars history kept his head down as everyone else in the room watched the big screen and listened as Tony Boselli Sr. talked about how tough his son was as a player, how hard he worked and how proud he was of the man he had become.

These were words that “Little Tony” had often heard from “Big Tony”. This time, however, it was difficult for Little Tony to listen, because his father had died nine months earlier. Hearing his father’s voice at this moment in a room full of family, friends and colleagues as he celebrated being inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame was just too much.

So Little Tony blocked most of it.

“It was emotional,” Boselli said. “It surprised me. I didn’t even know how to react… I think about my dad and not being there and you reflect a little bit and it’s moments where you look back at the good memories, a little bit sad that he is not here to experience it with me.

“These are special moments because it means that someone important in your life, even if they are not there, cares about you and you can think back to the good memories you had and how that person in this case my father, helped get me to where I was.”

Big Tony’s performance capped off a 24-minute congratulatory video that played at the end of a February 10 celebration at USC, Boselli’s alma mater.

Little Tony still hasn’t finished watching it.

Family is everything to the Bosellis

Athletics were a big part of the Boselli household in Boulder, Colorado. Water skiing, snow skiing, basketball, soccer, softball, tubing… whatever. And Big Tony was always a part of it, despite working long hours managing a fast food restaurant.

What he instilled in his three children — Little Tony, Jennifer and Michael — was a competitiveness that infiltrated everything they did. Drag a sibling or friend on a tube behind the family boat? You had to see how quickly you could knock them off. Backyard two-on-two football at halftime of Denver Broncos games? Fasten your (imaginary) chin strap, because this is going to be rough.

And the kids tie it up.

“We’re super competitive. Every single one of us,” Jennifer said. “So even though it was a pick-up game of basketball in the garage, people played hard because nobody ever wanted to lose because there was bragging rights. . . . That’s just how it was in our family, and everybody bought into it.”

Sometimes things got – arguably – too competitive. Like 11-on-11 Thanksgiving Day tackle football games with the extended family. Big Tony finished one with a broken nose and another with a torn ACL.

“He was a really tough character. He was tough in every sport and everything he did.”

Tony Boselli Sr. on Tony Boselli Jr.

Boselli loved that his father always made time for him and his siblings and said he will always cherish those moments, which invariably seemed to revolve around sports.

“He would come home from work every day and we would do something in the backyard,” Boselli said. “And my favorite was either football or basketball. We played one-on-one [basketball] until I was in high school and we’d go in the backyard and play catch. It was never a situation where I wanted to work on offensive line drills. I didn’t want to be an offensive lineman at that age. I wanted to be a quarterback or a linebacker.”

Before that could happen, however, Boselli had to start playing organized football. The minimum age to play Pop Warner football in Boulder was 10, but 9-year-old Little Tony wanted to play so badly that Big Tony told a little white lie.

“I wanted to put the pads on. So my dad went to the place, the clinic, and we signed up and [the person registering players] says, ‘How old is your son?’ “Boselli remembered.”[Big Tony] says, “He’s 10.” Made up a date of birth and everything so I could play football.”

“I want to share with him how proud I am of what he has achieved through his years of football… [and] to be a man.”

Big Tony on Little Tony

To Big Tony, family was everything. If Little Tony went somewhere, he took his younger siblings. It was important to spend time together and create traditions that continue to this day.

“When we go out to our beach house in California, and we used to do it as a vacation all the time, he always made sure every morning that we all woke up together as a family and went down and got donuts from the same donut shop,” said Michael. “And then at night after dinner we always walk down the boardwalk and have ice cream together. Still to this day when we all go out there as a family, whether it’s all of us as a group or just individual families, we everyone still does it as a family.”

Even as the children grew up and married and moved — Little Tony to USC and then Jacksonville when the Jaguars selected him second overall in 1995 — the family vacations continued.

Until Big Tony was too sick with cancer to walk.

Making Big Tony’s congratulatory video

Angi Boselli’s heart was broken.

Not because her husband told her in early 2021 that he hadn’t made the Hall of Fame after his fifth time as a finalist, but because his father was ill and unlikely to be around if Boselli eventually made it.

“Oh, I was devastated,” Angi said. “I know I cried. And like I said, it was a moment of, ‘Oh yes, he will.'”

That’s when Angi decided she had to get her father-in-law on video for her husband. She hired family friends Eric and Kay Murphy to help with the logistics of setting up the video shoot. There was just one minor problem: convincing Big Tony to do it.

“He’s done a lot more than just play football to get to this position. He’s really a great man.”

Big Tony on Little Tony

“The hard part was convincing his dad that we were doing this for everyone,” Angi said. “We did a video and he wouldn’t have agreed to it if he’d known we were trying to get his final thoughts or that we thought he might not make it. His father was a fighter. He truly believed that all of his cancer treatments would work.

“When he made the video, it was under the pretense that we got a coach [Tom] Coughlin, a bunch of former players, a bunch of friends. We actually did, but [Big] Tony’s video was the first shot. And the rest all came organically.”

The video was shot at Big Tony’s apartment in Jacksonville Beach. Eric Murphy conducted the interview and members of Jaguar’s video/production team filmed it. They shot it at the end of April 2021.

On May 31, the cancer that had ravaged Big Tony’s body for years took its final toll.

‘Angi, you have to turn it off. It is so embarrassing”.

It was a bittersweet moment for Little Tony when Hall of Fame offensive tackle Anthony Munoz knocked on the door of Murphy’s home to tell him he was going to be drafted.

Angi and several high-ranking Jaguars officials knew Boselli had entered the Hall of Fame, and they helped organize a celebration at USC following the Feb. 10 announcement. Almost 100 people attended. There was a cocktail hour and a dinner, and when dessert arrived on the table, the congratulatory video began playing on a giant screen.

Boselli had trouble with it pretty much as soon as it started. He was uncomfortable with all the praise from former coaches, teammates, members of the Jaguars organization, family and friends.

And then it rolled past 10 minutes. Then 15.

“He walked up to me and he said, ‘Angi, you have to turn it off. It’s so embarrassing,'” Angi said. “And I said, ‘Honey, the Jaguars put this together for you and they’re all watching. Shape up and watch the video.’ I had to get on him.”

Her husband sullenly sat back at a table that included former Jaguars quarterback Mark Brunell and his wife, Stacy, former Jaguars coach Gus Bradley and his wife, Michaela, former Jaguars offensive lineman Jeff Novak and his wife, Kim, and Jaguars owner Shad Khan.

Then it happened.

Even six months later, Angi became emotional as she described the moment her father-in-law appeared on screen.

“That was probably the sweetest part,” she said. “Tony’s very stoic. Very stoic. He doesn’t cry. He did his father’s memorial and he got a little choked up, but honestly he got through the tribute very beautifully.

“He’s just a very strong person, so to see him crumble when he saw that… uhhh.”

Her husband was not the only one. Jennifer and Michael also felt sick to their stomachs at the sight of their father.

“Hearing him again and seeing that, it was tough, but it was great,” Michael said. “I just sat there staring and crying and had a big smile on my face. I took the opportunity to enjoy seeing him one more time.”

That’s something Little Tony hasn’t done yet.

But he will soon. He said he will sit down and watch his father’s role in the video just before the Pro Football Hall of Fame induction ceremony Saturday at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton, Ohio.

“I’m probably not the best at handling those kinds of emotions,” Boselli said. “I’ve always joked that I’ve probably got some hidden room locked away in my brain that I just put all the unpleasant feelings into. But I’ll probably do it, there’s no doubt about that.

“At this point, I want to make the thing that I see before me [am inducted into the Hall of Fame]. Because I want that memory, the image of my dad and his words kind of ingrained in my mind when I go to Canton, because he’ll only be there in spirit.”



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