ATLANTA — As a Hall of Fame candidate, Tony Boselli is the Terrell Davis of left tackles.
T.D. was given permission to set up his bronze likeness in Canton’s bust room. Why not Boselli?
“I got hurt, just like T.D.,’’ Boselli said in an interview with 9NEWS Thursday along Super Bowl LIII’s Radio Row. “I promise you if you ask T.D., he didn’t want to get hurt, he wanted to play more football. I didn’t want my shoulders to stop working. They did.
“I was able to play more games than Terrell – he got in. I think he deserved to go in – he’s one of the great running backs of our era. I hope that helps me.’’
Like Davis, Boselli’s candidacy is built on the fact he was great for a relatively short time – not good for over a longer career as is the case with so many members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Davis only had four healthy seasons – but averaged 1,603 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns in that 1995-98 frame. The Broncos’ running back was the centerpiece of two Super Bowl champions and earned one league MVP for his regular-season play in 1998 and one Super Bowl MVP to cap the 1997 season.
A devastating knee injury essentially limited his career to just 78 games, yet his compact sensational production eventually carried him through to election into the Hall of Fame class of 2017.
Boselli essentially had six healthy seasons, yet he had five Pro Bowl appearances and made three All Pro teams. His 97 career games, counting playoffs, make him the only player among the 13 modern-era players on this year’s ballot to have played less than 161.
In one of those games, Boselli helped prevent his hometown Broncos from threepeating as Super Bowl champions. It was the front end of the Broncos’ great run in 1996. They were the NFL’s best team, clinching the AFC’s No. 1 playoff seed so early, their starters rested for several weeks before playing Boselli’s Jacksonville Jaguars in a second-round postseason game at old Mile High.
Boselli, who grew up in Boulder and starred for Sam Pagano’s Fairview High School state champions in 1987, protected the blindside of quarterback Mark Brunell well enough for Brunell to have what turned out to be the game of his career in a stunning 30-27 upset win against the Broncos.
The Jaguars were only in their second season. The Broncos gained revenged against the Jags in the following year’s playoffs and went on to win Super Bowls their next two seasons of 1997 and 1998. But the 1996 Broncos was the best team that never was.
“One of my favorite moments of all time,’’ Boselli said. “My favorite story about that game, I think I had like 80 tickets. All my family – they all still live there. So I get all these tickets, it cost me and arm and a leg, and all week they’re telling me, “Oh, we’re rooting for ya. Hope this works out.’
“I learned afterwards the only reason they were doing that is they thought there was no chance we’d win. We were like 15-point dogs. And when we won – none of them would talk to me. They were all mad. I said, ‘I thought you were rooting for me?’ The only people who were rooting for me was like my dad who was a Jaguars fan for seven years and the day I was done he hates the Jaguars and loves the Broncos.
“The people of Denver – they have the best fans. I love at Mile High Stadium when they announce how many people don’t show up. It’s one of the great things of all time. Lot of memories there. That was my favorite memory beating that team there. They were great, and they proved it by winning two more Super Bowls right after that.’’
The buzz among this year’s Hall voters is they want to elect at least one offensive lineman from a finalist group that includes Alan Faneca, Steve Hutchinson, Kevin Mawae and Boselli.
“I think Tony Gonzalez and Ed Reed are going to make it,’’ Boselli said about the first-ballot tight end and safety. “After that there’s three spots and Champ Bailey is one of the guys who has a great case. He’s going to get in, by the way, regardless of whether it’s this year or not. But I also think you have to look at Ty Law. He was a great corner at that same time.’’
Boselli’s chances may be improving as he is a finalist for a third consecutive year and in last year’s vote, he made the cut from 15 to 10 before he was eliminated.
“Yeah but they don’t give you anything for top 10,’’ Boselli said. “There’s no booby prize. It’s top 5 or bust. We’ll see what happens. We’ve got great players in this thing. A couple Broncos. Steve Atwater, John Lynch. I played against Atwater, I played against all of them. What great players. You can go down the list. I think it’s going to be hard to knock down 10 guys.’’