‘He is truly a great man’

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

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

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

Those were words that “Little Tony” had often heard from “Big Tony”. This time, however, Little Tony found it difficult to listen as his father had died nine months earlier. Hearing his father’s voice in that moment, in a room full of family, friends and colleagues while he was celebrating the fact that he would be 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’m thinking about my dad and not being there and you’re thinking, and those are moments when you look back on the fond memories, a little bit of sadness that he’s not here to experience it with me, but that are good moments.

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

Big Tony’s performance capped a 24-minute congratulatory video that played at the conclusion 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, skiing, basketball, soccer, softball, tubing… you name it. And Big Tony was always there, even though he worked long hours as a fast-food restaurant manager.

What he instilled in his three children—Little Tony, Jennifer, and Michael—was a competitive spirit that permeated everything they did. Towing a sibling or friend on a subway behind the family boat? You had to see how quickly you could knock them out. Backyard two-on-two football at halftime of Denver Broncos games? Fasten your (imaginary) chin strap because it’s going to be rough.

And the kids ate it.

“We are super competitive. Every single one of us,” Jennifer said. “Even if it was a pickup basketball game in the garage, people played hard because nobody ever wanted to lose because there were braggart rights. … That’s how it was in our family, and everyone bought it.”

Sometimes things got – arguably – too competitive. Like tackling soccer games with the extended family at 11-on-11 Thanksgiving. Big Tony ended one with a broken nose and another with a torn cruciate ligament.

“He was a really tough character. He was tough in all sports 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’ll always cherish those moments that always seemed to revolve around the sport.

“He came home from work every day and we did something in the backyard,” Boselli said. “And my favorite was either football or basketball. We played one against one [basketball] until I was in high school and we would go out in the backyard and play tag. It was never a situation where I would have worked 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 on the pads. And so, my father, we went to the place, the recreation center, and we signed up and [the person registering players] says, “How old is your son?” ‘ Boselli recalled.'[Big Tony] says, “He’s 10.” Made up a date of birth and everything so I can play football.”

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

Big Tony on Little Tony

For Big Tony, family was everything. Whenever Little Tony went anywhere, he would take his younger siblings with him. It was important to spend time together and create traditions that continue to this day.

“When we went to our beach house in California, which we used to do on vacations, he always made sure we all woke up together as a family every morning and went down and got donuts from the same donut shop,” Michael said. “And then in the evening after dinner we always walk along the promenade and eat ice cream together. To this day, when we all go out as a family, whether we all go out as a group or just individual families, we all still do it as a family.”

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

Until Big Tony was too sick with cancer to walk.

Made Big Tony’s congratulations video

Angi Boselli’s heart broke.

Not because her husband had told her in early 2021 that he hadn’t made it into the Hall of Fame after his fifth time as a finalist, but because his father was ill and probably wouldn’t be around when Boselli finally made it.

“Oh, I was devastated,” said Angi. “I know I burst into tears. And like I said, there was a moment, ‘Oh yes he will.’ “

That’s when Angi decided that she had to videotape her father-in-law for her husband. She enlisted family friends Eric and Kay Murphy to help with the logistics of the video shoot. There was just one small problem: convincing Big Tony.

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

Big Tony on Little Tony

“The tricky part was convincing his dad that we do this for everyone,” Angi said. “We were shooting a video and he wouldn’t have agreed to it if he knew we were trying to get his final thoughts or that we thought he might not be able to. 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 were going to get a coach [Tom] Coughlin, a bunch of ex-players, a bunch of friends. In fact, we did, but [Big] Tony’s video was the first one-shot. And the rest all came organically.”

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

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

“Angi, you have to switch that off. It’s so embarrassing.’

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

Angi and several senior Jaguars officials knew that Boselli had been inducted into the Hall of Fame, and they helped organize a party at USC following the February 10 announcement. Almost 100 people took part. There was cocktail hour and dinner, and when dessert came 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 coaches, teammates, members of the Jaguars organization, family and friends.

And then it rolled after 10 minutes. Then 15

“He went to me and said, ‘Angi, you have to turn that off. It’s so embarrassing,’” said Angi. “And I said, ‘Honey, the Jaguars put this together for you and they’re all watching. Formulate yourself and watch the video.’ I had to attack him.”

Her husband sullenly sat back down at a table where 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 sat .

Then it happened.

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

“That was probably the cutest part,” she said. “Tony is very stoic. Very stoic. He doesn’t cry. He delivered his father’s eulogy, and he was easily swallowed up, but to be honest, he made it through the eulogy very nicely.

“He’s just a very strong person, so watching him kind of break down when he sees it…uhhh.”

Her husband wasn’t the only one. Jennifer and Michael also felt the heartache of seeing their father.

“Hearing him again and seeing that was hard, but it was great,” Michael said. “I sat there and just stared and cried and had a big old smile on my face. I took this opportunity to enjoy seeing him again.”

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 Saturday’s Pro Football Hall of Fame induction ceremony 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 always joked that I probably have a hidden space in my brain that I put all these uncomfortable emotions in. But I will do it, there’s no doubt about it.

“At this point, I kind of want to make that what I’m looking at before I do it [am inducted into the Hall of Fame]. Because I want this memory, my father’s picture and his words to be rooted in my mind when I go to Canton, because he will only be there in spirit. ‘He is truly a great man’

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