Tony Boselli is no stranger to achievements. He was an All-American tackle at USC, the first draft choice of the expansion Jacksonville Jaguars and an NFL All-Pro, a lineman so accomplished he was named to the league’s all-decade team of the 1990s.
But making the Pro Football Hall-of-Fame’s list of finalists … as he did a year ago … was a big deal. And Boselli didn’t realize how big until the day of the voting as he waited in Houston, site of Super Bowl LI, for the results.
Like the two teams competing in the Super Bowl, Hall-of-Fame finalists are flown into the site of the game and are there for the final vote, which occurs the day before the game. In fact, candidates are urged to remain in their hotel rooms for the results, with Hall-of-Fame president and executive director David Baker that afternoon personally delivering the news to the next inductees.
That can be maddening, though Boselli didn’t fully understand until he went through the process last February in his first trial as a finalist.
“It was not a big deal to me until the last three hours,” he said on the latest Talk of Fame Network broadcast, “because I was working the Westwood One broadcast (as an analyst). I was working that all week. I was busy all week.
“I had my family in there. My wife came in. We had a great time in Houston. And even the day of the vote, which was the Saturday before the Super Bowl, I went to lunch with my Dad (and) hung out with (former teammate) Mark Brunell. And then it was about three hours before the announcement was to come … and I started getting nervous and started thinking about it.
“I remember sitting there at lunch … it was Mark Brunell, my Dad and I … and I literally got up and said, ‘All right, I gotta go.’ I couldn’t do it anymore. So I went and sat in my hotel room by myself. I didn’t want anyone there, and those were a long two hours.
“You try not to think about what it means. I mean, at least for guys who played in this league, and I love the game and I love the NFL … it’s meant so much to me to be honored and put in that group … so, to me, it’s amazing. You’re right there. It was nerve wracking.”
That’s not unusual. Most candidates who go through the process say the same thing. It’s not indecision that bothers them; it’s the wait. And while Boselli didn’t make the final cut, he came close. He was a Top-10 choice, which bodes well for his future candidacy.
“I remember a couple of times my kids would call me,” said Boselli, one of 27 semifinalists for the Hall’s Class of 2018, “and I’m like, ‘Stop calling me. Leave me alone.’ And the killer was … as you guys know … David Baker is going to come knocking on your hotel door if you made it. You get a phone call if you didn’t make it.
“I literally got a knock on the door, and it was … the maid. And I was like, “Gollll- LEE, this is crazy…’ It was a pretty emotional day, and I don’t know what to compare it to. But it really shed a light, for me, as to how big a deal it really is for me and what the Hall of Fame would mean.”