JACKSONVILLE, FL – The moment he saw his father’s face and heard his voice, Tony Boselli He dropped his head in his hands.
“I wasn’t ready… I wasn’t ready to go there at that moment in front of everyone,” he said.
The first draft in Jacksonville Jaguars history held its head as everyone in the room watched the giant screen and listened as Tony Boselli Sr. spoke about how tough his son was as a player, how hard he worked and how proud he was. the man who became.
Those were the words Little Tony heard a lot from Big Tony. But this time, it was hard for Little Tony to listen, because his father died nine months ago. Hearing his father’s voice at this moment, in a room full of family, friends and colleagues, as he celebrated the fact that he had been inducted into the Professional Football Hall of Fame, was too much.
So Little Tony blocked most of it.
“It was emotional,” Boselli said. “It surprised me. I didn’t even know how to act. … I’m thinking of my dad and he’s not there, and you kind of think, and those moments come back in cherished memories, a little bit sad because he wasn’t here to experience it with me, but these are good moments.”
“These are special moments because they mean that there is someone important in your life, even if they are not there, who cares about you, and you can think back on the wonderful memories you had and how that person, in this case my father, helped me get to where I was.”
Big Tony’s appearance was capped by a 24-minute congratulatory video that was played at the end of the February 10 celebration at USC, University of Boselli.
Little Tony still hasn’t finished watching it.
Family is everything to Pusilis
Athletics was a big part of the Boselli family in Boulder, Colorado. Surfing, snowboarding, basketball, soccer, softball, tubing…whatever. And Big Tony, despite working long hours running a fast food restaurant, was always a part of it.
What he instilled in his three sons – Little Tony, Jennifer and Michael – was competition that crept into everything they did. Do you pull a sibling or a friend on a tube behind the family boat? You had to see how quickly you could get rid of it. Two-football in the backyard at halftime for the Denver Broncos games? Fasten the (imaginary) chin strap, as it will become coarse.
And the children ate it.
“We’re very competitive,” Jennifer said. “Every single one of us.” “So, even if it was a little basketball game in the garage, people were playing hard because no one ever wanted to lose because there were bragging rights. … This is the way it was in our family, and everyone bought it.”
At times things became – arguably – very competitive. Like 11 on 11 Thanksgiving Day, tackle soccer games with the extended family. Big Tony ended one with a broken nose and the other with a ruptured ACL.
“He was a really tough character. He was strong in all sports and everything he did.”
Tony Boselli Sr. for Tony Boselli Jr.
Boselli loved that his dad always made time for him and his siblings and said he would always cherish those moments, which always seemed to be about the sport.
“He would come home from work every day and we would do something in the backyard,” Boselli said. “My favorite was either football or basketball. We played one on one [basketball] Until I was in high school, we’d go to the backyard and play a game of fishing. It was never a situation where I would be working in offensive line drills. I didn’t want to be an offensive line man at that age. I wanted to be a midfielder or a midfielder.”
Before that could happen, 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 sanitary pads on. And so my dad went to the place, the registration center, and we registered and [the person registering players] He says, “How old is your son?” Boselli remembered.[Big Tony] He says, “He’s ten.” He invented the 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 accomplished throughout his footballing years… [and] being a man.”
Big Tony on Little Tony
For Big Tony, family was everything. If Little Tony went somewhere, he would take his younger siblings along. Spending time together and creating traditions that continue to this day was important.
“When we go out to our California beach house, and we do it as a vacation all the time, he always makes sure every morning that we all get up together as a family and go down and get cakes from the same cake shop,” Michael said. “And then at night after dinner we always walk down the boardwalk and we all get ice cream together. And we’re still to this day when we all go out there as a family, no matter if we’re all as a group or just individual families, it’s all still like a family” .
Even as the kids grew up, married and moved—Little Tony to USC and then Jacksonville when Jaguar picked him second overall in 1995—the family vacations continued.
Until Big Tony was seriously ill with cancer.
Make a Big Tony congratulatory video
Angie Boselli’s heart broke.
Not because her husband told her in early 2021 that he had yet to make his fifth Hall of Fame as a finalist, but because his father was ill and unlikely to be around if Boselli eventually succeeded.
“Oh, you’re devastated,” said Angie. “I know I’m torn. And like I said, it was a moment of, ‘Oh yeah, he will.'” “”
That’s when Angie decided she had to videotape her father-in-law. She enlisted family friends Eric and Kay Murphy to help with the logistics of setting up the video shoot. There was one simple problem: persuading Big Tony to do so.
“He did a lot more than just playing football to get to that position. He really is a great guy.”
Big Tony on Little Tony
“The hard part was convincing his dad that we do it for everyone,” Angie said. “We were making a video, and he wouldn’t have agreed if he had known we were trying to get his final ideas or we thought he might not make it. His dad was a fighter. He really believed that everything from his cancer treatments would work.
“When he made the video, it was on the pretext that we would get a coach [Tom] Coughlin, a group of ex-players, a group of friends. Actually, we did, but [Big] Tony’s video was the first shot. The rest came organically.”
The video was filmed in Big Tony’s Jacksonville Beach apartment. The interview was conducted by Eric Murphy, and members of the Jaguars production/video team filmed it. They shot him in late April 2021.
On May 31, the cancer that had plagued Big Tony’s body for years took a final toll.
‘Angie, you need to stop this. It’s so embarrassing.’
It was a bittersweet moment for Little Tony when Hall of Fame attacker Anthony Munoz knocked on the door of Murphy’s house to tell him he was going to be recruited.
Angie and several high-ranking Jaguar officials knew Boselli had been inducted into the Hall of Fame, and they helped organize a party at USC after the February 10 announcement. Nearly 100 people attended. There was a cocktail hour and dinner, and when the dessert hit the table, the congratulatory video began projecting onto a giant screen.
Boselli had trouble with it pretty much once it started. He was uncomfortable with all the praise from his former coaches, teammates, members of the Jaguars organization, family and friends.
And then I rolled 10 minutes later. Then 15.
Angie said, “He went to me, and he was like, ‘Ange, you have to stop this. It’s so embarrassing.” And I said, “Honey, the Jaguars put this together for you, and they’re all watching. Make up and watch the video.” I had to beat it.
Her husband sat angrily back at a table that included former Jaguar quarterback Mark Brunel and his wife Stacey, former Jaguar coach Jose Bradley and his wife Mikaela, former Jaguar attacking lineman Jeff Novak and his wife Kim, and Jaguar owner Shad Khan.
Then it happened.
Even after six months, Angie was emotional when she described the moment when her father-in-law appeared on the screen.
“That was probably the nicest part,” she said. “Tony is very stoic. Very stoic. He doesn’t cry. He gave his father’s eulogy, and he choked a little, but frankly he made his eulogy very beautifully.
“He’s just a very strong human, so watching him kind of fall apart when he saw him… ah.”
Her husband was not the only one. Jennifer and Michael also felt emboldened to see their father.
“To hear it again and see that, it was tough, but it was amazing,” Michael said. “I just sat there and stared and just cried and had a big smile on my face. I took this opportunity to enjoy seeing him again.”
This is 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 before the Pro Football Hall of Fame induction party on Saturday at the Tom Benson Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.
“I’m probably not the best at dealing with that kind of emotion,” Bocelli said. “I’ve always joked that I could possibly have a locked hidden room in my mind and put all those uncomfortable feelings in. But I would, there’s no doubt about it.”
“At this point, I kind of want to make that thing I watch before me [am inducted into the Hall of Fame]. Because I want that memory, and the image of my father, and his words are kind of ingrained in my mind when I go to Canton, because he will be there only in spirit. “