“He really is a great man”

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

“I wasn’t…I wasn’t ready to go at that point in front of everyone,” he said.

The first draft pick in Jacksonville Jaguars history kept his head down as everyone in the room watched the giant screen and listened to Tony Boselli Sr. talk about his son’s strength as a player, his his hard work and his pride. the man he had become.

These were words “Little Tony” had often heard from “Big Tony”. This time, however, it was hard for Little Tony to listen, as his father had died nine months earlier. Hearing his father’s voice right now, in a room full of family, friends and colleagues, while celebrating the fact that he would be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, was just too much.

So Little Tony blocked out most of it.

“It was emotional,” Boselli said. “It took me by surprise. I didn’t even know how to react. … I think about my dad and not being there, and you kind of reflect, and those are times of looking back at the good memories, a a little bit sad that he’s not here to experience it with me, but these are good times.

“These are special times because it means that someone important in your life, even if they’re not there, cares about you, and you can think back to the good memories you had and how that no one, in this case my father, helped me get to where I was.”

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

Little Tony still hasn’t finished looking at him.

Family is everything to the Bosellis

Athletics was a big part of the Boselli home in Boulder, Colorado. Waterskiing, snowskiing, basketball, soccer, softball, tubing…it doesn’t matter. And Big Tony, despite working long hours running a fast food joint, has always been a part of it.

What he instilled in his three children – Little Tony, Jennifer and Michael – was a competitiveness that seeped into everything they did. Transporting a sibling or a friend on a tube behind the family boat? You had to see how fast you could knock them down. Two-a-side football in the yard at halftime at Denver Broncos games? Buckle your (imaginary) chin strap, as it will get rough.

And the kids ate it.

“We’re super competitive. All of us,” Jennifer said. “So even though it was a basketball game in the garage, people were playing hard because no one ever wanted to lose because there was bragging rights. … That’s how it is in our family. , and everyone bought into that.”

Sometimes things got – arguably – too competitive. Like Thanksgiving Day 11-on-11 football games with 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 in 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 would 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 garden,” Boselli said. “And my favorite was football or basketball. We played one-on-one [basketball] until I was in high school, and we used to go out in the garden and play catch. It was never a situation where I would 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. And so my dad, we went to the place, the rec center, and we signed up and [the person registering players] goes, ‘How old is your son?’ “Boselli remembered. »[Big Tony] goes, ‘He’s 10 years old.’ I invented a date of birth and everything so that I could play football.”

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

Big Tony on Little Tony

For Big Tony, family was everything. If Little Tony was going somewhere, he took his younger siblings. Spending time together and creating traditions that endure to this day was important.

“When we go out to our beach house in California, and we used to do that on vacation all the time, he always made sure that every morning we all woke up together as a family and went downstairs and bought donuts from the same donut shop,” Michel said. “And then at night after dinner, we always walk on the boardwalk and we all eat ice cream together. Still to this day, when we all go out as a family, it doesn’t matter if it’s all of us in a group or just families individuals, we all still do it as a family.”

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

Until Big Tony was too sick with cancer to go.

Make Big Tony’s Congratulations Video

Angi Boselli’s heart broke.

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

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

It was then that Angi decided she had to film her stepfather for her husband. She enlisted 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 did more than just play football to get to this position. He really is a great man.”

Big Tony on Little Tony

“The tricky part was convincing her dad that we were doing this for everyone,” Angi said. “We were making a video, and he wouldn’t have agreed if he knew we were trying to get his last thoughts or thought he might not get there. His dad was a fighter. He truly believed that all of his cancer treatments were going to work.

“When he made the video, it was under the pretext that we were being coached [Tom] Coughlin, a bunch of old players, a bunch of friends. In fact, we did, but [Big] Tony’s video was the first shot. And the rest came organically.”

The video was shot at Big Tony’s condo in Jacksonville Beach. Eric Murphy conducted the interview and members of the Jaguars 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 toll.

‘Angi, you have to turn this off. It’s too embarrassing.’

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

Angi and several top Jaguars officials knew Boselli had been inducted into the Hall of Fame, and they helped throw a party at USC after the Feb. 10 announcement. Nearly 100 people took part. There was cocktail and dinner, and when the dessert arrived on the table, the congratulatory video started playing on a giant screen.

Boselli had problems with that pretty much from the start. He was uncomfortable with all the praise from former Jaguars coaches, teammates, members of the Jaguars organization, family and friends.

And then it was 10 minutes. Then 15.

“He came up to me and he was like, ‘Angi, you have to turn this off. It’s so embarrassing,'” Angi said. “And I said, ‘Honey, the Jaguars have this prepared for you, and they’re all watching. Get in shape and watch the video.’ I had to take it out on him.”

Her husband sat grumpy at a table that included former Jaguars quarterback Mark Brunell and his wife, Stacy, former Jaguars coach Gus Bradley and his wife, former Jaguars offensive lineman Michaela. Jaguars 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 stepfather appeared onscreen.

“That was probably the sweetest part,” she said. “Tony is very stoic. Very stoic. He doesn’t cry. He did the eulogy for his dad and he got a little choked up, but honestly he did the eulogy very well.

“He’s just a very strong human being, so to see him break down when he saw him…uhhh.”

Her husband was not the only one. Jennifer and Michael also felt the punch of seeing their father.

“Hearing it again and seeing it was tough, but it was awesome,” Michael said. “I sat there and watched and just cried and had a big smile on my face. I took this opportunity to enjoy seeing him one more time.”

This is something Little Tony has yet to do.

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

“I’m probably not the best at dealing with those kinds of emotions,” Boselli said. “I’ve always joked that I probably had a hidden room locked away in my brain that I put all these uncomfortable emotions into. But I’m going to do it, there’s no doubt about it.

“At this point, I kind of want to make it the thing that I watch before I [am inducted into the Hall of Fame]. Because I want this memory, my dad’s picture and his words to kind of stick in my mind as I go to Guangzhou, because he’ll only be there in spirit.”

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