Two football legends appear to still be on good terms after some tough words from Pro Football Hall of Fame pass-rusher Bruce Smith toward Tony Boselli's Canton supporters this week.
“Tony and I are cool,” Smith said to The Associated Press this week following his initial comments on Boselli's campaigners. Smith also said the two have spoken on the phone since Smith's initial comments.
“Tony and I have no beef with each other. And I hope and I’d like to see Tony enjoy this process,” Smith told The Associated Press. “But I needed to address several of his campaign supporters because it set a bad precedent.”
“I’m not going to comment on folks that want to make headlines in terms of my making a statement addressing several supporters for his campaign. My letter speaks for itself,” Smith continued to The Associated Press. “That’s all I can say about the subject. Tony and I are cool. I will be there to welcome him to the Class of 2022. And that’s it.”
In perhaps his most infamous game, Boselli managed to hold Hall of Fame edge rusher Bruce Smith to just three tackles and two quarterback hits in the 1996 AFC Wildcard game, where the Jags upset the Bills 30-27. Smith won Defensive Player of the Year that season after accumulating 13.5 sacks and 90 total tackles.
It was that game against Smith that many pointed to as a big reason Boselli belongs in Canton after years of failing to be voted in. The argument that Boselli's performance against Smith alone is the biggest reason he belongs is an argument that, frankly, has never been used, with it instead highlighting Boselli's prowess at his peak.
“A large part of the campaign to promote Tony Boselli into the Hall of Fame seems to hyper-focus on a single successful performance he had against me in a 1996 playoff game,” Smith said in a note on Instagram this week. “On the one hand, I’m quite flattered to be considered the gold standard by which another player’s game can be measured to determine his qualification into the HOF. But on a more serious level, I and other HOFers believe it sets a horrible precedent to negatively zero in on a standing member of the Hall’s play in order to validate the candidacy of a nominee.”
“Tony was a formidable opponent during his brief career, but I find it difficult to compare the totality of his body of work with those of the NFL’s greatest left tackles,” Smith said. “With the exception of the legendary Anthony Munoz; Jonathan Ogden, Willie Roaf, and Walter Jones all protected the blind side of the quarterback for 12 seasons or more. In Jacksonville, Leon Searcy bore the arduous task of protecting Mark Brunell’s blindside, while Tony benefited from protecting the extremely talented, mobile left handed quarterback.
“During my nineteen years in the NFL several outstanding LTs, such as Bruce Armstrong, Richmond Webb, and Will Wilford, all had stellar games against me,” Smith said. “Perhaps they too would be wise to build HOF campaigns highlighting that fact.”
Boselli has long been considered the greatest Jaguar of all-time. The first-ever draft pick in Jaguars history, the Jaguars took a young Boselli out of USC at No. 2 overall in the 1995 NFL Draft and proceeded to build around him under head coach Tom Coughlin.
And it didn't take long for Boselli or the Jaguars to make a name for themselves. Boselli was named a Pro Bowler in 1996, the same year the Jaguars went 9-7 and advanced all the way to the AFC Championship Game.
Boselli would go on to become arguably the most decorated player in franchise history, earning five Pro Bowl nods, making the All-Pro First-Team three straight years from 1997-99 and being named to the NFL 1990s All-Decade Team.
“I have the utmost respect for Bruce Smith,” Boselli said in a statement released to The Associated Press. “He’s one of the greatest players to ever play the game and is one of several men I competed against during my career. I played the games I played, and they’re all on tape for anyone to watch. My career ending early because of a shoulder injury has been much discussed. I don’t have much to add on that.”