A career that seemed destined to end at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton now ends in an auditorium in Houston. Tony Boselli will announce his retirement this week from football at age 31. Rest, rehabilitation nor three surgeries have given Boselli relief from the shoulder problems that originally put him out of the Jaguars lineup in October of 2001.
Drafted to be the “cornerstone of the franchise” by then-coach Tom Coughlin, Boselli was plagued by injuries throughout his career. Not big injuries generally, but ones that nicked him enough to miss a game here or there, forcing the Jaguars to alter their game plan on the offensive line. When healthy, Boselli could take his place among the best left tackles in the history of the game.
Over the 1995-2001 run, he started 90 games for Jacksonville, and was credited with allowing 15 1/2 sacks in their period. Knowing he might be damaged goods, Coughlin and the Jaguars made a deal with Houston, allowing the expansion franchise to take Boselli off their roster, along with Seth Payne and Gary Walker, giving the Jaguars a chance to get out of cap jail. It was a risk by the Texans, but a calculated one, knowing they’d get Payne and Walker in the deal. In fact, those two started every game for Houston last year on their defensive front four. Boselli was checked out by the Texan’s medical staff, and was declared sound enough to continue rehab. He said he’d play in 2002. But in October of last year, the Texans put him on injured reserve. He didn’t play a down. His retirement this week will bring his career to a close, but not his cap space on Houston’s roster. He’ll count against the cap this year and next before they stop paying for their first pick in the expansion draft.
In an ironic twist, it looks like Zach Weigert will be the player to replace him on the Texan’s offensive line at left tackle. Because it’s happening to a celebrated player in Jaguars’ history, Boselli’s retirement seems tragic, but it’s a story told a hundred times a year, from high school, to college to professional football. Staying healthy is as big a part of the game as playing itself.