Legendary Jacksonville Jaguars tackle Tony Boselli is one of the best offensive linemen in NFL history.
No less than Hall of Fame Cincinnati Bengals left tackle Anthony Munoz has sung Boselli’s praises. That’s saying a lot.
Boselli made history by becoming the Jaguars’ first first-round selection in their expansion year in 1995.
Not only that, but Boselli also became the highest-paid rookie offensive lineman that year.
Boselli eventually helped the Jaguars become a postseason contender and earned five Pro Bowl nods in his eight-year NFL career.
Who would’ve thought Boselli developed his stellar work ethic in the offensive line by flipping burgers at McDonald’s and doing grunt work at a convent when he was younger?
Hopefully, Boselli will wear that elusive gold jacket in Canton sooner than later.
Don Bosco Anthony Boselli, Jr. was born to parents Tony, Sr. and Candy on April 17, 1972 in Modesto, CA.
Tony, Sr. worked as a winery sales representative in Modesto. He moved his family to Colorado in 1974 so he could set up McDonald’s franchises with his older brother Bud. The Boselli brothers had owned twelve McDonald’s restaurants in the state by 1995.
Tony, Jr. grew up with his sister Jennifer and brother Michael in Boulder, CO. He rooted for the Denver Broncos and idolized quarterback John Elway.
“I remember all of those last-second games he won,” Boselli told The Denver Post’s Irv Moss on October 6, 2008. “I remembered sitting in front of the TV and watching the game drive in Cleveland when the Broncos came back and beat the Browns.”
Tony, Jr. began playing Little American football when he was six years old.
According to SI.com’s Jill Lieber, Tony, Sr. gave his son pep talks inside their car whenever he drove him to his games. The two of them would give Tony, Jr. a grade based on how well he played during the drive back.
When they got home, they played backyard football with their neighbors. When the sun set, father and son took their act to a long hallway and played Nerf football with Tony, Sr. on his knees.
Tony Boselli learned the value of hard work at a young age.
When Boselli was eight years old, he started helping his family maintain the two McDonald’s franchises they owned in the Denver area, per Lieber.
A young Boselli pulled weeds, swept the parking lot, and took out the trash every Saturday.
For some kids, doing that kind of work was drudgery. Not Tony Boselli, though.
He enjoyed himself because he worked with his dad Tony, Sr. and also the perk that came along with it: McDonald’s Happy Meals.
“Every hour, Little Tony would come to the front door and ask, ‘Can I have something to eat?'” Tony, Sr. told SI.com in 1995, his son’s rookie year in the NFL. “I’d say, ‘Get back to work. Concentrate on your job.'”
When his son turned fourteen years old, he earned minimum wage flipping burgers and taking customers’ drive-through orders.
Despite the meager pay, Tony Boselli never griped. He loved what he did for a living.
Boselli ate like there was no tomorrow during his breaks. He gorged on french fries, Big Macs, apple pies, and milk shakes with gusto.
It eventually reached a point Boselli was devouring more food than he was making. His dad had to resort to drastic measures.
“One of my managers called me one day and said, ‘I can’t afford him. He’s eating more than he’s making,'” Tony, Sr. told Lieber almost a decade later. “So, I transferred Little Tony to the landscaping crew.”
His parents divorced while he was in junior high school, per Moss.
Also shout out to Tony Boselli for being named Pro Football Hall of semifinalist. Boselli is former Boulder Fairview star. #Denver7
— Troy Renck (@TroyRenck) November 22, 2017
Boselli attended Fairview High School in Boulder.
Ironically, the future hulking presence on the Jacksonville Jaguars offensive line wanted to be a quarterback when he joined the Fairview Knights in 1987.
He told Moss some twenty-one years later he tried out for quarterback. However, the coaches assigned him to tight end.
Boselli also suited up for the Knights as a linebacker and defensive lineman. However, he felt he was destined to play on the offensive line, per The Denver Post.
His dad Tony, Sr. implored Knights head football coach Sam Pagano to play him at quarterback just before his sophomore season.
“Tony’s an offensive lineman,” Pagano said, laughing (via SI.com).
Tony, Sr. continued pleading his case. Pagano relented on the condition the younger Boselli play quarterback for only a week.
Tony, Sr. was at every practice that week except for the final session because of work commitments. When his son came home, he boldly proclaimed he was firmly entrenched on the Knights’ offensive line.
His father was disappointed. While his attempts at making Tony, Jr. become an elite quarterback turned futile, he urged him to play defensive lineman because they have heftier paychecks and enjoy all of the glory.
Tony, Jr. told his dad his coach said offensive linemen would make $1 million annually by the time he made it to the National Football League.
Tony Boselli, Jr. disagreed.
He was wrong. His son became the highest-paid rookie offensive lineman in NFL history eight years later.
Tony, Jr. pleaded with his dad to hire a personal trainer a year later so he can morph into an elite offensive lineman and eventually earn a college scholarship.
When Tony, Jr. was a senior, he put on 40 pounds of muscle and bulked up to 265 pounds. He tore pass rushers apart and became a high school All-American and earned First-Team All-State honors.
It didn’t take long for college recruiters to hound him like crazy. However, Notre Dame – the school Boselli, a devout Catholic, wanted to attend badly – left him off its radar.
“I learned to hate Notre Dame,” Boselli confided to SI.com in 1995.
Boselli eventually committed to Notre Dame’s rival, the USC Trojans, and become one of the best offensive linemen in the nation.
College Days With The USC Trojans
Tony Boselli almost remained in his home state of Colorado during his college football playing days.
He entertained a strong sales pitch from legendary Colorado Buffaloes head football coach Bill McCartney. However, he decided to commit to the USC Trojans.
Boselli told The Denver Post in 2008 his parents’ divorce in 1984 was never a factor in his decision to head out West for college:
“I never viewed it that I was from a broken home. I made the best of it, and both my parents were supportive of me, and they made sure I knew it.”
“I know they would have liked me to stay home in Boulder, but it was time for me to go. I loved doing my own thing.”
When Boselli arrived at the USC campus in the fall of 1990, he told his dad his meager pay of $3.80 an hour didn’t suffice. He applied for a summer job as a bouncer that paid $10 an hour.
The idea didn’t sit well with Tony, Sr. Instead, he volunteered his son for a job at Abbey of St. Walburga in southeast Boulder. The $10 hourly rate came out of his own pocket.
Sister Maria Michael told Lieber in 1995 she asked Boselli to do most of the grunt work in the 150-acre farm she managed.
Boselli promptly picked up where he left off during his days at his dad’s McDonald’s franchises: he mowed the grass, baled hay, took care of the vegetable garden, fixed the fences, and took out calves’ horns.
After Boselli ate the sumptuous lunch Sister Augustine cooked for him, he took a nap in his tuck with his head sticking out one window and his feet out the other.
Boselli told SI.com during his rookie year with the Jacksonville Jaguars the nuns at the convent “worked me harder than the USC coaching staff did.”
Nonetheless, he enjoyed himself so much he returned for a second tour of duty the following summer.
While Boselli earned a decent wage for a college student, he was never extravagant. His USC Trojans teammate and roommate Jeff Kopp swore by his frugality to SI.com:
“I lived with Tony for five years, and he wore only three or four outfits. He’s not a slob. He’s just not into impressing people.”
“He doesn’t care how he’s perceived: except for his morals, beliefs, and work ethic. Those things are important to Tony.”
Boselli displayed his exemplary work ethic on the college gridiron and in the classroom. He became an All-American at both tackle positions and a three-time Pac-10 All-Academic during his tenure at USC from 1991 to 1994.
He also earned the Morris Trophy as the Pac-10’s best offensive lineman in the 1994 NCAA season.
Legendary USC Trojans head football coach John Robinson told Lieber in 1995 Boselli was “the best college offensive lineman I ever had.”
Boselli fared better than other prominent All-American USC Trojans offensive linemen such as Bruce Matthews, Don Mosebar, Roy Foster, Keith Van Horne, Brad Budde, and Pat Howell from Robinson’s perspective.
Robinson told offensive line coach Mike Barry to ride him hard. Barry obliged by badgering him relentlessly in practices and meetings.
When Boselli dislocated his knee against the Arizona Wildcats in the 1993 NCAA season, he sat out five games. It became a pivotal turning point in his college football career.
Bosell told SI.com the injury gave him more perspective and made him not take his talent for granted anymore.
He hit the weights harder than ever before. He even attended a summer running camp in Southern California, per Lieber.
“My biggest fear is the fear of failure,” Boselli told SI.com. “I want to do everything perfectly. And I don’t care how much hard work it takes.”
Boselli also didn’t take crap from anybody.
Baylor Bears defensive end Scotty Lewis criticized Boselli’s run blocking abilities. Boselli made him pay for his stinging remarks when the Trojans took on the Bears.
“He was questioning my ability, the trade that I work so hard at,” Boselli told Lieber. “I was going to make him respect me.”
Boselli pushed Lewis all over the gridiron. The former even incurred a 15-yard penalty for blocking Lewis out of the end zone, per SI.com.
Boselli earned his finance degree from USC and graduated with a 3.5 GPA. He consequently earned a postgraduate scholarship from the National Football Foundation worth $18,000.
He and his girlfriend Angi got married on June 23, 1995. Boselli was just twenty-three years old.
The stage was now set for Tony Boselli, Jr. to take the National Football League by storm.
Pro Football Career
The expansion Jacksonville Jaguars made Tony Boselli their first first-round selection in their franchise’s history.
The Jaguars selected him second overall in the 1995 NFL Draft.
Boselli savored the opportunity to play for an NFL expansion franchise, per Moss:
“It was great being an expansion team’s first draft pick and second overall in the NFL Draft…The team didn’t have any history or tradition to build on, but that was outweighed by the opportunity to be part of something new and with a chance to write your own history.”
“Jacksonville had never had a professional sports team, and we all had a chance to grow with the city. As long as there is a Jaguar team, I’ll be part of it.”
On this day in 1995, we made our 1st draft pick in franchise history.
— Jacksonville Jaguars (@Jaguars) April 22, 2021
Boselli also made history by signing a seven-year, $17 million deal that made him the highest-paid rookie offensive lineman, per SI.com.
When Boselli wrote his first paycheck, he paid his father Tony, Sr. $50,000 for the 1994 GMC Yukon truck and the Lloyd’s of London insurance policy he purchased for him during his USC days.
Boselli and his wife Angi founded The Boselli Foundation, a faith-based non-profit organization, during his rookie year in 1995.
For his part, Jaguars head coach Tom Coughlin marveled at the 6’7″, 322-lb. Boselli’s size and mobility. While he was a large offensive lineman, his mobility and athleticism could hold off the NFL’s best pass rushers.
Hard evidence: Boselli gave Shawn Jones and Reggie White fits in his pro debut against the Green Bay Packers in the 1995 NFL season.
The Jacksonville Jaguars were off to a rip-roaring start in their franchise’s short history.
After winning just four games in their inaugural season in 1995, they won nine games and played deep into the postseason the year after.
Boselli continued playing at a high level. He effectively neturalized future Hall of Fame defensive end Bruce Smith in the Jags’ win over the Buffalo Bills in the AFC Wild Card Game.
Just a week later, they beat Boselli’s favorite childhood team, the Denver Broncos, in the AFC Divisional Round.
Boselli told Moss in 2008 the shocking 30-27 victory was the highlight of his eight-year NFL career.
“The game was kind of a bittersweet thing for me,” Boselli recalled. “I had a lot of great moments, but that game was the highlight of my career and it happened in my second year in the league.”
While Jacksonville didn’t make it past the AFC Championship Game in 1996, they strung together four consecutive postseason appearances from 1996 to 1999.
The Jaguars, the new kids on the block, averaged a respectable eleven games per season during that stretch.
For his part, Tony Boselli racked up five consecutive Pro Bowl appearances from 1996 to 2000 while helping protect quarterback Mark Brunell.
Boselli also became a First-Team All-Pro selection from 1997 to 1999.
— Nick Elenis (@NickElenis) January 18, 2022
Boselli’s exemplary play earned the plaudits of fellow USC Trojans alumnus and Hall of Fame left tackle Anthony Munoz.
Munoz, who was an eleven-time Pro Bowl selection, considered Boselli one of the best left tackles in the history of the game.
On the other hand, former Baltimore Ravens head coach Brian Billick compared Boselli to Hall of Fame left tackle Jonathan Ogden. He noted the two were similar because their insane athletic abilities easily made up for whatever mistakes they made.
Perhaps the fondest memory Jaguars fans have is Tony Boselli’s beatdown of Miami Dolphins defensive end Jason Taylor.
“Boselli beat me down on a Monday night,” Taylor told Jacksonville.com’s Sam Kouvaris in January 2019. “An epic beatdown. Surprising it didn’t knock me into retirement.”
Boselli was so popular, Jacksonville-area McDonald’s restaurants carried the “Boselli Burger,” a burger that has three hamburger patties, lettuce, and tomatoes, on their menu in 1998.
Boselli’s career in Jacksonville ended when the Jaguars exposed him to the expansion draft in 2002. He sustained a shoulder injury that slowed him down during the 2001 NFL campaign.
The Houston Texans plucked Boselli from the expansion draft pool in 2002. Unfortunately, he never played a single down for them as he spent the entire season on Houston’s injured reserve list.
Tony Boselli, one of the greatest offensive linemen of his era, retired from the National Football League at the end of the 2002 NFL season.
Tony Boselli and his wife Angi, a former USC cheerleader, have two sons and three daughters. They currently reside in Ponte Vedra, FL.
What else could really matter? Love my girls. pic.twitter.com/FUYO8wLQzB
— Tony Boselli (@TonyBoselli) February 2, 2020
Boselli became the first Jaguars player inducted into their Ring of Honor on October 8, 2006. He signed a one-day contract allowing him to officially retire as a member of the organization on that day.
Boselli has continued the family food business tradition. He and his best friend Mark Brunell own every Whataburger franchise in Jacksonville, FL.
Boselli and his former teammates Jay Novak and Will Furrer launched the Jacksonville site of their IF Marketing & Advertising company on October 2, 2009.
He served as an assistant football coach at his son Andrew’s Providence High School in 2013. Andrew Boselli eventually suited up for the Florida State Seminoles.
— Tony Boselli (@TonyBoselli) May 21, 2016
Boselli has also dabbled in sportscasting. He first worked as a color commentator for FOX Sports in 2007.
He was also a Westwook One game analyst and sideline reporter from 2009 to 2012.
Boselli began doing radio play-by-play for the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2013.
The Cotton Bowl Hall of Fame inducted Boselli on May 12, 2016.
He became a member of the College Football Hall of Fame a month-and-a-half later.
Boselli was one of the former athletes who had COVID-19 when the pandemic broke out in the spring of 2020.
It wasn’t just a mild case of the coronavirus: Boselli had to spend half of his five-day stay at the Mayo Clinic’s intensive care unit (ICU), per ESPN’s Michael DiRocco.
The 47-year-old Boselli told himself he didn’t want to die in the hospital:
“It was kind of fuzzy, but I remember (the pulmonologist) saying, ‘If we don’t get your oxygen stabilized, we’re going to go to the next level.’ I remember laying there thinking, ‘What do you mean if this doesn’t work?’ He says, ‘We don’t know what direction this is going to go.'”
“I don’t know if I ever was like I thought I was going to die, but I remember having the conversation with myself: I don’t want to die here.'”
Fortunately, an improvement in Boselli’s oxygen levels marked the beginning of his recovery process the next day. He didn’t have to consume extra oxygen when he got home.
— BrentDanStuartMarcelAlivia (@ActionSportsJax) April 4, 2020
Boselli told ESPN he felt sick on March 16, 2020. He played golf at the Sawgrass Country Club the previous weekend. He thought it was just a typical cold or allergy. However, he felt worse just two days later.
When the symptoms worsened, Boselli received a call informing him he was in contact with someone who tested positive for the virus.
Boselli reached out to his doctor and underwent COVID-19 testing. He received a positive diagnosis two days later. He then told Sawgrass Country Club management to inform their members who he might have been in contact with.
When Boselli spoke with DiRocco, he still had a bit of a cough. His appetite hadn’t improved at that point. He said all he had for breakfast was an egg. He had lost twenty pounds over a two-week period.
Boselli told the Florida Times-Union’s Gene Frenette (via USA TODAY) his wife Angi also had COVID-19. However, her symptoms were far less severe than his. She was never confined at a hospital.
Boselli also recalled the clockwork efficiency of the Mayo Clinic’s doctors, nurses, and technicians.
“You have all these people covered up in their suits in your room, but they treated me great and made a bad situation as bearable as possible,” Boselli told Frenette. “They’re a bunch of studs in my book.”
He received many text messages and emails from various people who comforted him during his ordeal with COVID-19.
— Pro Football Hall of Fame (@ProFootballHOF) December 30, 2021
Boselli became a finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame for the fifth consecutive year in the summer of 2021.