Where Are They Now: Tony Boselli
Tony Boselli is one of the best offensive tackles to come out of USC (1991-94), where he was a two-time All-American and three-time All-Pac-10 player. In 1995, he became the first player ever drafted by the Jacksonville Jaguars at No. 2 overall, where he played until 2002. His NFL accolades include two NFL Lineman of the Year awards and a spot on the NFL's 1990s All-Decade team.
Since ending his football career, Boselli has worked in daily radio, competed in sprint triathlons and has had an ownership stint with Whataburger franchises in the Jacksonville area. Now he's a partner in two businesses, has a weekly radio show for the Jaguars, does color commentary for the NFL on Westwood One radio, does TV coverage for Jacksonville's preseason games and coaches his two sons in baseball and basketball. He's also the chairman of the board for the Boselli Foundation, an organization that focuses on character development and education for kids in high-risk neighborhoods in the Jacksonville area.
Boselli, who resides in Ponte Vedra, Fla., with his wife and five kids, will be inducted into the USC Athletic Hall of Fame in May 2012. Pac-12.org's Sarah Kezele caught up with him for a Q+A.
Sarah Kezele: What is your favorite memory of your time at USC?
Tony Boselli: I think my favorite part about playing for SC is the fact that I was part of something bigger than just the team or me as an individual player. One of my favorite things that I was told when I was getting recruited there is you don't come to USC and be a Trojan just for four years. You're a Trojan for life. I think that and the camaraderie and what it means to be a part of that school and that program is one my favorite things.
SK: You're going to be inducted into the USC Athletic Hall of Fame with Keyshawn Johnson and Randy Johnson, in addition to many other incredible athletes. What does it mean to you to be recognized for something that was such a big part of your life for four years?
TB: It's just a huge honor, especially if you look at the guys who played at USC, and the great football players at both a college level and at the NFL level that came through that school and played in the Coliseum and walked on that campus. To be included amongst the best is a huge honor. It's fun to go in with Keyshawn because we got to play together for one year. It's very humbling to be included with those players.
SK: Moving on to your pro career: Once again, very decorated in your time in the NFL. Unfortunately, and you probably agree, it was too short of a time because of your shoulder injury, but it sounds like since you've planted yourself in Jacksonville, you must have loved it there and loved the community enough that you wanted to stay afterward.
TB: It's a long way from LA, and I didn't really think about that when I got here, but it's a great place to play football. Four of our five kids were born here in Jacksonville. We're part of a church that we've been part of since it started in 1996, so it's really just become home. It's a great area to live in and a great area to raise kids. Obviously, California is awesome, too, and we miss it—especially my wife since she was born and raised there—but there was a great opportunity to play for the Jacksonville Jaguars and to be the first pick of the franchise and grow with the franchise. The only thing I'd probably change in my pro career is if I could have stayed away from the injury bug and played a little bit longer.
SK: I read that you were so well loved in Jacksonville that McDonald's made a Boselli Burger for a time?
TB: Oh yeah, just for one year (laughs). Obviously they didn't sell enough of them because they didn't do it for more than a year or two, but it was pretty cool.
SK: What was on the burger?
TB: Oh gosh, I knew you were going to ask me that. I can't remember. It was on a Kaiser roll, three patties, two different cheeses, lettuce, pickles, onions, mayonnaise, mustard. All kinds of stuff. Every time I'd go to McDonald's—I still go there—people would get a chuckle in the drive-thru and ask if I wanted a Boselli Burger.
SK: After you stopped playing football, you quickly found a million other ways to stay busy in Jacksonville. Among those things is a weekly Jaguars radio show and color commentary for the NFL on Westwood One radio. Do you miss football when you're talking about your team or watching other guys play? Does it make you want to go back?
TB: Yeah, I do miss playing. I miss competing and I miss the exhilaration, the anxiety and the buildup of playing in the game. You hate that feeling of failing and losing, but the other side of it, the winning and the exhilaration that comes from that is something you miss and something that I loved. You also miss the side of the game that had nothing to do with football, but being in the locker room and the camaraderie that you get with the guys. So, I do miss that, but football is a young man's game and it ends for everybody sooner or later. I'm just thankful that I got to do what I love to do for the years that I did.
SK: Do you think it's harder for you to be away from the game since it was taken away from you as opposed to other guys who got to walk away from the game on their own terms?
TB: Probably, but it's all I know. It's not like I was depressed or laying around thinking about it 24 hours a day, but when I get there on a Sunday afternoon and I'm doing an NFL game, walking on the field with all the smells and sights and the excitement, you think back and go, "Man, it would be fun to do this again." It's easy not to appreciate what you're doing when you're doing it, so when I'm in those situations I get the thoughts of how much fun it would be to get another chance, but I'm 39 years old and my shoulder still doesn't work right, so that's not going to happen.
SK: Your two sons play football. I know a lot of former football players are hesitant to let their kids play because they see what it does to their bodies. How do you feel about your sons playing, especially with your injury?
TB: I'm fine with it. I had my hip replaced 12 weeks ago, and I have a bad shoulder from playing. It hurts to walk around, but if I could do it all over again I would. The game of football is a great sport. Is it dangerous? Absolutely. But there are a lot of things that we do that are dangerous. The life lessons and opportunities that football gave me—I got an education at a great university at USC—and the people I got to meet, it's been very good to me. It teaches a lot of lessons. My boys love it just like I did, so it's fun to watch them do what they like to do.
SK: One of the biggest things you're involved with is the Boselli Foundation. Can you tell me more about it?
TB: We have a foundation here in Jacksonville that does after-school programs for kids in the high-risk neighborhoods in the area. We focus on character development and education. It's a faith-based foundation, and we've had great success in helping kids with their academics and education, and supporting them in making good choices. We have about 90 kids we work with every day after school from 3-6 p.m. throughout the school year, and then we run a six-week summer camp program for nine hours a day. The kids that are involved with us do everything from sailing to dancing to different sports and recreation, water rafting and a lot of character development, so it's been quite a success.
SK: What was your inspiration for starting the foundation?
TB: I started it back in 1995 when I first got drafted, and I didn't really know why I was starting it. Someone just told me to start it. As I grew and became a Christian in 1996, I started wanting to give back. My wife and I both wanted to give back in Jacksonville, so we used the foundation as a vehicle to do that. When I retired and moved back here in 2005 (he lived in Houston for two years), we wanted to do something different with the foundation and had seen an after-school program a friend of mine was doing, so we adopted it and put it in place here in Jacksonville. Really, what we want to do is help kids and give kids a chance to realize the potential they have in them, to help them realize what their dreams are and to help them dream, and to give them hope that they can get there. We really think that character and a good education are critical. If you can get those two things you really have a chance at doing something, and doing something great.
SK: Have you had time to keep up with your Trojans since you left?
TB: I went to two or three games a year when I lived in Houston because it's a pretty easy flight from there to LA. Now, living in Ponte Vedra and doing NFL games on the weekends, I haven't been to an SC game in a while. I do follow them on TV. We don't always get the games out here, but I'm always keeping up with them online. One of my old roommates in college (Joe Barry) is their linebackers coach, so I have that connection. (Head coach) Lane Kiffin was an assistant coach in Jacksonville when I was there, so I know Lane as well.
SK: With what you've seen of SC so far, what are your thoughts on this year's team?
TB: I think they have a lot of talent. I think Monte Kiffin's got the defense playing much better this year after getting his system in there. They're playing very good defense as a team. I think, offensively, Matt Barkley is a tremendous player. If they get a little more consistent on the offensive side of the ball, I think we're a very good team and we'll compete in the Pac-12 South. Unfortunately, because of the probation, we can't play in the Pac-12 championship game, but I think we'll be one of the best teams in the Pac-12 South this year.