Countdown to Jaguars Football: No. 71 and the Legend Who Donned It

John Shipley

In fewer than 100 days, Jacksonville Jaguars will return ... at least as things stand today.

While there is still some uncertainty surrounding the start of the NFL season, the league office has made it clear that they are planning to kick the season off on Sept. 10 and then have every other team play on Sept. 13.

By going off that timeline, we are now just 71 days from watching the Jaguars take the field against the Indianapolis Colts for the first regular season game of 2020.

In an effort to countdown to the start of the season, we will now be going from 95 through 1 to determine the best players to don the teal, black, and white for the Jaguars at each specific number.

But only one player has ever worn No. 71 in Jacksonville: Jaguars legend Tony Boselli.  

There is a good reason why Boselli's jersey hasn't been worn by any other player in the franchise's 25-year history. To say Boselli is a Jaguars legend would be a massive understatement; instead, it is more accurate to say Boselli is the Jaguars legend.

Jacksonville has had a number of great players pass through their halls since the team's first season in 1995, and players like Fred Taylor, Mark Brunell, Jimmy Smith, Maurice Jones-Drew and several others all have their own rightful places in team history. But on a national scale, none have quite reached the heights that the legend of Boselli has outside of Jacksonville. 

To this day, Boselli is the only player in franchise history to ever be named a finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Others, like Taylor, have been semifinalists, while Smith has been considered for a semifinalist spot. But Boselli is the only Jaguar player who has ever really gotten to the doorstep of Canton, even if he has been kept out of the Hall of Fame in each of the four years he has been among the finalists.

Boselli was the Jaguars' first-ever draft pick, selected No. 2 overall out of USC in the 1995 NFL Draft. He then went on a run of dominance before injuries derailed his career, becoming one of the NFL's best left tackles from 1995-2001, starting 90 regular seasons and six playoff games. 

During his tenure with the Jaguars, Boselli was named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame 2nd team All-1990s Team, five Pro Bowls and three First-Team All-Pro squads. He was also the first player to ever be inducted into The Pride of the Jaguars on Oct. 8, 2006.

“Tony Boselli was the original Jaguar, and we are excited to recognize him,” said Jaguars then-owner Wayne Weaver. “We are proud of Tony’s contributions on the field for this organization, and we’re proud of his contributions off the field for this community. We welcome the opportunity to have Jaguars fans thank Tony for what he has meant to Jacksonville and the Jaguars.” 

This aligns with what Hall of Fame defensive end, and all-time NFL sack leader, Bruce Smith had to say about Boselli in the leadup to last week's Pro Bowl. Smith and Boselli, of course, had numerous epic battles, including when Boselli held Smith to zero sacks in Jacksonville's first-ever playoff game, a 30-27 win over the Buffalo Bills in 1996.

"Tony is a stud. He was a stud," Smith said. "I think I played against him all three times and he gave me all that I could handle, that is for sure."

"So I am pulling for Tony," Smith continued. "I understand the dynamics of the voting process and him having a short career and his body of work wasn't necessarily complete. But while he was healthy during that era of football, there was none better." 

While Boselli's career was cut short due to injuries, he still stands tall among the giants in Jaguars history. For that reason, don't expect any other player to ever represent No. 71 in Jacksonville; They would simply pale in comparison to Boselli.

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