Starting when he was eight years old, Tony Boselli spent many of
his Saturdays at one of the two McDonald's franchises that his
family then owned in Denver. His duties included pulling weeds,
sweeping the parking lot and taking out the garbage, but he
enjoyed the job, not only because he got to go to work with his
father, Tony Sr., but also because he loved Happy Meals. "Every
hour, Little Tony would come to the front door and ask, 'Can I
have something to eat?'" Tony Sr. says. "I'd say, 'Get back to
work. Concentrate on your job.'"
When he was 14, Little Tony was given more demanding jobs at the
restaurants, grilling burgers, cooking french fries and taking
orders at the drive-through window. Despite earning minimum
wage, he never complained about his paycheck because he was
close to the action and close to the food. On his breaks he
would devour Big Macs, french fries, milk shakes and apple pies.
"One of my managers called one day and said, 'I can't afford
him. He's eating more than he's making,'" Tony Sr. says. "So, I
transferred Little Tony to the landscaping crew."
In the fall of 1990 Tony Jr. arrived at Southern Cal as a
265-pound offensive lineman. After his freshman year he
telephoned his father to say that he was no longer willing to
work for $3.80 an hour and that he was applying for a summer job
as a bouncer for $10 an hour. Appalled at the thought of his son
working in a tavern, Tony Sr. came up with a solution: He would
volunteer his son's services to the Abbey of St. Walburga in
southeast Boulder and pay Little Tony the same 10 bucks an hour
out of his own pocket.
For eight hours a day, five days a week, Boselli helped the
Benedictine nuns tend their 150-acre farm. He mowed the grass
and the alfalfa fields, baled and stacked hay, maintained the
vegetable garden, mended fences and dehorned calves. "I'd use
Tony for the heavy stuff," says Sister Maria Michael, who
manages the farm. "He had the muscles. Sister Augustina would
cook him a huge lunch, and he'd take a nap in his truck, his
head hanging out one window, his feet out the other. Then, it
was back to work. Monastic life is a good life, but you work at
Says Little Tony, "There were days at the convent when the nuns
worked me harder than the USC coaching staff did. But I had such
a good time, I went back and worked the farm a second summer."
With the Benedictine nuns and the Trojan coaches shaping his
work ethic, Don Anthony Boselli Jr. grew up to become 6'7" and
327 pounds and the first pick of the expansion Jacksonville
Jaguars in the 1995 NFL draft.
Boselli had decided to skip the postseason all-star games to
prepare himself for the February NFL scouting combine,
and--unlike many college stars who prefer less-demanding, private
workouts for the scouts--he willingly took his physical and
submitted to all of the interviews, tests and drills. He even
drew a smattering of applause from the assemblage after his
vertical leap, 40-yard dash and bench press.
The Jaguars were so impressed by Boselli that they made him the
first draft choice in their history and signed him six weeks
later to a seven-year, $17 million contract, the largest ever
for a rookie offensive lineman. So far, Boselli has barely made
a dent in his new bank account. His first check, for $50,000,
was written to his father as reimbursement for the 1994 GMC
Yukon truck and the Lloyd's of London insurance policy that Tony
Sr. purchased for him while he was at Southern Cal. For Little
Tony, wealth is taking some getting used to. When his fiancee,
former USC cheerleader Angi Aylor, wanted to discuss selecting a
china pattern, Boselli suggested that they plan to eat off paper
plates so they wouldn't have to bother washing dishes.
"I lived with Tony for five years, and he wore only three or
four outfits," says former USC teammate Jeff Kopp, a sixth-round
draft pick of the Miami Dolphins. "He's not a slob. He's just
not into impressing people. He doesn't care how he's
perceived--except for his morals, beliefs and work ethic. Those
things are important to Tony."
An All-America at both left and right tackle and a three-time
Pac-10 All-Academic, Boselli was one of the most overwhelming
offensive linemen ever to play college football. "He's the best
college offensive lineman I've ever had," says Trojan coach John
Robinson, whose consensus All-America linemen have included Pat
Howell, Brad Budde, Keith Van Horne, Roy Foster, Don Mosebar and
Bruce Matthews--all of whom went on to the NFL.
"He's a very, very large human being," says Jaguar coach Tom
Coughlin, "but he moves with the grace of someone smaller. That
will be a plus against great speed rushers. Here's a man 50
pounds heavier than any premier NFL pass rusher, but he has the
athleticism, maneuverability and speed to compete with them."
And the temperament, as Baylor defensive end Scotty Lewis
discovered last fall. Lewis made the mistake of remarking that
Boselli was not as good a run blocker as a pass blocker. "He was
questioning my ability, the trade that I work so hard at,"
Boselli says. "I was going to make him respect me."
That Saturday, Boselli pushed the 6'3", 265-pound Lewis all over
the field. On the Trojans' first touchdown, Boselli was
penalized 15 yards for blocking Lewis clear through and out of
the end zone. By the fourth quarter Lewis was stumbling and
limping. Afterward, he claimed that Boselli was one of the
dirtiest players he'd ever faced.
"I see no reason why as an offensive lineman you have to take
crap from the defense," Boselli has said. "It's not in the rule
book. It's a myth. You can be just as aggressive. You can be
just as much of an ---- as the defensive guy."
The oldest of Tony Sr. and his first wife Candy's three children
(Jennifer, 21, will be a junior at the University of Colorado,
and Michael, 17, will be a senior this fall at Fairview High in
Boulder), Tony was born in Modesto, Calif., where his father
worked as a sales representative for a winery. When Tony was
two, the Bosellis moved to Colorado so that Tony Sr. could go
into business with his older brother, Bud, who had been awarded
a McDonald's franchise. Today, Tony Sr. and Bud own 12 of the
Always the tallest and heaviest kid in his class--his dad stands
6'1" and weighs 200 pounds--Little Tony started playing Little
American football at age six, even though the minimum age for
the league was eight. Tony Sr. fibbed on the application,
confident that his son was already big enough to withstand the
physical pounding from older boys. He also believed that Little
Tony would develop into a stronger, faster athlete and would
improve his coordination and his aggressiveness by playing with
Tony Sr. also played a more direct role in his son's development
as an athlete. While driving Little Tony to games, Tony Sr.
would launch into a pep talk, and on the drive home the two
would grade young Tony's play. Then, father and son would head
for the backyard to play more football with anyone in the
neighborhood who cared to join in. When darkness fell, the game
would move into the house, to a long hallway. Two-on-two Nerf
football, with only one rule: Dad had to play on his knees.
"Every once in a while a lamp would go over," says Tony Sr.,
with whom the three children lived after he and Candy divorced
when Little Tony was 12. "The kids would go to bed, and I'd pass
out in a chair."
Back then, father and son would fantasize about Little Tony's
performing someday in the NFL. "I've wanted to play pro football
for as long as I can remember," Boselli says. "I love the
dedication it takes, the challenge it presents, the hard work
that goes into the sport." In the Bosellis' dreams Little Tony
was always a quarterback. But Sam Pagano, the coach at Fairview
High, had other plans for Tony Jr., who by his freshman year was
6'2" and 190 pounds.
"I'd like Tony to try quarterback," Tony Sr. told Pagano at
spring practice before his son's sophomore season.
Pagano laughed. "Tony's an offensive lineman," he said.
Tony Sr. pleaded with Pagano to give his son a chance at
The coach relented--sort of. "Only for one week," he said.
That week Tony Sr. went to every practice until work prevented
him from attending the final session. That evening Little Tony
came home and proudly announced, "I'm now an offensive lineman!"
Tony Sr. was crushed. "At least be a defensive lineman," he
said. "They make a lot more money and get a lot more glory."
"But, Dad," Little Tony argued, "Coach Pagano says that by the
time I get out of college, offensive linemen will be making $1
million a year."
"He's crazy!" Tony Sr. said. "That'll never happen."
After his junior season in high school, Little Tony, then a mere
225 pounds, persuaded his father to get him a personal trainer
to work on his weightlifting and his diet in hopes of improving
his chances of receiving a college scholarship. A year later
Tony Jr. tipped the scales at a solid 265. He was named a high
school All-America and first-team all-state, and most major
college football programs recruited him; one exception: Notre
Dame, where Boselli, a devout Catholic, most wanted to go. Says
Little Tony, "I learned to hate Notre Dame."
As it turned out, there was no better place for Boselli than
USC, which had had 24 All-America offensive linemen, and there
was no better teacher than Robinson, who returned in 1993,
before Boselli's junior season, for a second tour with the
Trojans. From the beginning Robinson made it clear that he
expected the offensive line to be the most imposing part of
Southern Cal's team. He confronted Boselli, saying, "You aren't
physical enough. When I turn on the film and see you block, I
want to be able to tell the young guys, 'This is how it's done.'"
Robinson encouraged offensive-line coach Mike Barry to ride
Boselli. So Barry routinely badgered Boselli in meetings and at
practice. "That's not an All-America performance," he would
holler. Boselli dislocated his left kneecap against Arizona in
the fifth game of the 1993 season, and he was sidelined for five
games. But the injury, coupled with Robinson's challenge, proved
to be the turning point in his career. "It flipped a switch,"
Boselli says. "It changed the way I looked at everything.
Before, I had worked hard, but I took my talent for granted.
When I was hurt, I wanted it more. Everybody had said I was
good, but I wanted to prove that I was better than they'd ever
From that point on, Boselli became his own toughest competition,
spending hours in the weight room, attending a summer running
camp for skill position players in San Diego to improve his
footwork and logging miles in the L.A. summer sun. And he would
punish himself for even the slightest error in a game. After he
slipped on the Stanford Stadium field because he wasn't wearing
long enough cleats and was beaten for a sack, Boselli returned
to his hotel room when many of the Trojan upperclassmen went
partying in San Francisco. "My biggest fear is the fear of
failure," he says. "I want to do everything perfectly. And I
don't care how much hard work it takes."
When the Jaguars selected Little Tony, Tony Sr. says it was one
of his proudest moments as a father. But there have been others
of late. In mid-May, Little Tony graduated with a degree in
finance, and his 3.5 average earned him an $18,000 National
Football Foundation postgraduate scholarship. On June 23 he and
Angi were married in Orange County. "I didn't do anything,
except taste the food at the caterers," said Tony Jr. of
arrangements for the wedding, at which he wore a new tuxedo:
size 56 jacket and 46-inch waist pants with a 38-inch inseam.
In April, after the Jaguars' first minicamp, Little Tony phoned
Tony Sr. to share another special moment--the fantasy they had
talked about so many years ago.
"So, how was your first day on the job?" Tony Sr. asked.
"It was hard," said Little Tony. "I was scared. But it was great."
"How do you like being a pro football player?" the father
"It's the best job in the world," said the son. "I love it."