Tony Boselli looked at all the teal-colored jerseys in the crowd and shouted, “Duuuuval!”
Finally, the Jacksonville Jaguars have a player in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Boselli, the first overall pick in Jaguars history, was among eight members of the Class of 2022 enlisted at the Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium on Saturday.
“I thank God for football and I thank God for the people of Jacksonville,” Boselli said before shouting the supporters’ rallying cry, the name of their county.
The Jaguars took on the Las Vegas Raiders in Thursday night’s NFL preseason opener, so Boselli’s No. 71 jerseys filled the seats.
A five-time Pro Bowl draft pick and three-time All-Pro left tackle in seven seasons at Jacksonville, Boselli saw his career cut short by injuries. But his dominating performance earned him a gold jacket.
“It’s a huge honor,” Boselli said.
Linebacker Sam Mills, defensive back LeRoy Butler, defensive linemen Bryant Young and Richard Seymour, wide receiver Cliff Branch, coach Dick Vermeil and longtime umpire chief Art McNally joined Boselli in a class of guys who waited several years – a few decades – to get the call.
Young gave the most moving speech when he collapsed in honor of his son, Colby, who died of childhood cancer aged 15 in 2016.
“We assured Colby that we would keep his memory alive and continue to speak his name,” Young said. “Colby, you live long in our hearts.”
Young, who excelled at defensive tackle in an era filled with talented players in that position, had 89½ sacks and earned four Pro Bowl selections during a 14-year career spent entirely with the San 49ers. Francisco.
Vermeil gave the longest speech, going over the 8-minute limit by 15. The former Philadelphia Eagles, St. Louis Rams and Kansas City Chiefs coach appeared to thank everyone who helped him reach the stage.
He credited the players for his success and specifically pointed to fellow Hall of Famers Kurt Warner and Isaac Bruce, who were part of Vermeil’s “Greatest Show on Turf” Super Bowl championship team in St. Louis. .
“God, I just wish I had time to review everyone,” Vermeil said.
And then he did, anyway.
Vermeil completed the ceremonies. Butler kicked it all off.
The four-time All-Pro safety jumped with the same enthusiasm as he celebrated big plays at Lambeau Field.
“DJ Khaled said it best: ‘God made it,'” Butler began, referencing the song. “When you play for the Green Bay Packers, many doors open. When you win a Super Bowl, more doors open. When you’re selected for the Hall of Fame, football heaven opens. This is a rare company.
Butler drew cheers from Jaguars fans in attendance to see Boselli’s induction when he mentioned growing up in Jacksonville.
“Thank you, Duval,” Butler said. “My mom, who grew up poor, she made us think rich every day because it’s not what you wear or what you have, it’s how you act.”
Butler helped restore Green Bay to its glory days during a 12-year career. His versatility as a safety set the standard for a new wave in that position and earned him a spot on the 1990s league All-Decade team.
Butler originated the “Lambeau Leap” and had a key sack in Green Bay’s Super Bowl victory over New England. He nearly became the first player in league history to finish his career with 40 interceptions and 20 sacks.
Mills, the 5-foot-9 linebacker nicknamed “Field Mouse” during his 12-year career with the New Orleans Saints and Carolina Panthers, and Branch were inducted posthumously. An inspirational figure, Mills overcame tremendous odds to even make it to the NFL.
Mills played Division III college football and was undrafted. He was eliminated by the Cleveland Browns and Toronto Argonauts of the CFL and began his professional career with the Philadelphia Stars of the USFL. Jim Mora, who coached the Stars, brought him to New Orleans in 1986 and Mills never looked back.
“He was told he wasn’t good enough to play college football or big enough to play pro football and at the age of 27 he wasn’t young enough to play in the NFL and yet we celebrate today,” said Melanie Mills, Sam’s widow.
Mills became an assistant coach for the Panthers after retiring. He was diagnosed with bowel cancer before the 2003 season, but continued to coach during his treatment and gave what is known as his “Keep Beating” speech on the eve of the club’s Super Bowl game with New England at the end of this season.
Mills died in April 2005 at the age of 45. His “Keep pounding” remains the Panthers’ slogan.
Branch, who died just over three years old at age 71 of natural causes, was one of the top deep threats of his era with some of his greatest performances on the game’s biggest stages, helping the Raiders win three Super Bowls. .
Branch made his first of three consecutive All-Pro teams in his first season as a starter in 1974 and scored 67 touchdowns through the air.
“Clifford has been delayed. It was not denied,” said his sister and presenter, Elaine Anderson.
In a year without first-ballot candidates, inductees endured long waits to get to the Hall.
Defensive tackle Richard Seymour didn’t wait too long to taste success in the NFL. He was part of three Super Bowl championship teams in his first four seasons with the New England Patriots.
Seymour pointed to the defensive mainstays of those teams but didn’t mention Tom Brady’s name.
“We had a young quarterback, but we made it work,” Seymour said, prompting laughter from the crowd.
Seymour had 57 1/2 career sacks in 12 seasons, the first eight in New England before ending his career with the Oakland Raiders.
“I’m overwhelmed with humility because it’s not about what it says about me but what it says about us and what we can do together,” he said. “I’m overwhelmed with gratitude because I didn’t come here alone. None of us did. None of us could have done it.
Seymour, 42, choked up as he thanked his wife, Tanya.
“Football is what I do, but family is what I am,” he said. “Thank you for all you have added to my life. This day belongs to my family. The scriptures teach that your riches are in your family.
Seymour called her three children “her greatest joy”.
“Of all I’ve accomplished, there’s no greater honor than being your father,” he said.
Seymour congratulated Patriots owner Robert Kraft and former Raiders owner Al Davis and his son, Mark Davis.
He attributed his success to lessons he learned from Patriots coach Bill Belichick: work hard, be thorough in your preparation, support your teammates and respect your opponents.
“It wouldn’t have happened without Coach Belichick,” Seymour said.
McNally gave a video speech after being inducted as a contributor.