CANTON, Ohio — Tony Boselli looked out at all the teal-colored jerseys in the crowd and screamed: “Duuuuval!”
Finally, the Jacksonville Jaguars have a player in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Boselli, the first pick in Jaguars history, was among eight members of the Class of 2022 inducted Saturday at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium.
“I thank God for football and I thank God for the people of Jacksonville,” Boselli said before shouting the fans’ rallying cry, the name of their county.
The Jaguars played the Las Vegas Raiders in the NFL exhibition opener Thursday night, so No. 71 Boselli jerseys filled the seats.
A five-time Pro Bowl selection and three-time All-Pro left tackle in seven seasons, Boselli’s career was cut short by injuries. But his dominant performance earned him a gold jacket.
“It’s a profound 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 head of officiating Art McNally joined Boselli in a class of guys who waited several years — some decades — to get the call.
Young delivered the most emotional speech when he broke down honoring his son, Colby, who died of pediatric cancer at age 15 in 2016.
“We assured Colby we would keep his memory alive and we would continue speaking his name,” Young said. “Colby, you live long in our hearts.”
Young, who excelled at defensive tackle in an era filled with talented players at the position, had 89.5 sacks and earned four Pro Bowl selections in a 14-year career spent entirely with the San Francisco 49ers.
Vermeil gave the longest speech, blowing past the eight-minute limit by 15. The former Philadelphia Eagles, St. Louis Rams, and Kansas City Chiefs coach seemed to thank everyone who helped him reach the stage.
He credited players for his success and specifically pointed out fellow Hall of Famers Kurt Warner and Isaac Bruce, who were on Vermeil’s “Greatest Show on Turf” Super Bowl championship team in St. Louis.
“Gosh darn, I just wish I had time to go through everyone,” Vermeil said.
And then he did, anyway.
Vermeil wrapped up the ceremonies. Butler kicked everything off.
The four-time All-Pro safety leaped in with the same enthusiasm he celebrated big plays at Lambeau Field.
“DJ Khaled said it best: ‘God did,‘” Butler began, referencing the song. “When you play for the Green Bay Packers, a lot of doors open up. When you win a Super Bowl, more doors open up. When you’re picked for the Hall of Fame, football heaven opens up. It’s 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, growing up in poverty, she made us think rich every day because it’s not about what you have on or what you have, it’s how you act.”
Butler helped restore Green Bay’s glory days during a 12-year career. His versatility as a safety set the standard for a new wave at the position and earned him a spot on the league’s All-Decade team of the 1990s.
Butler originated the “Lambeau Leap” and had a key sack in Green Bay’s Super Bowl victory over New England. He fell just short of becoming the first player in league history to finish his career with 40 interceptions and 20 sacks.
Mills, the 5-foot-9-inch 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 reach the NFL.
Mills played Division 3 college football and was not drafted. He was cut by the Cleveland Browns and Toronto Argonauts of the CFL and began his professional career with the USFL’s Philadelphia Stars. 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 professional football and at the age of 27, he wasn’t young enough to play in the NFL and yet here we are today celebrating,” said Melanie Mills, Sam’s widow.
Mills became an assistant coach with the Panthers after his retirement. He was diagnosed with intestinal cancer before the 2003 season but kept coaching during his treatment and made what is known as his “Keep pounding” speech on the eve of the club’s Super Bowl matchup with New England at the end of that season.
Mills died in April 2005 at age 45. His “Keep pounding” remains the Panthers’ tag line.
Branch, who died just over three years at age 71 of natural causes, was one of the best deep threats of his era with some of his biggest performances coming on the game’s biggest stages, helping the Raiders win three Super Bowls.
Branch made the first of his three straight All-Pro teams in his first season as a starter in 1974 and scored 67 touchdowns through the air.
“Clifford was delayed. He was not denied,” said his sister and presenter, Elaine Anderson.
In a year with no first-ballot candidates, the inductees endured long waits to make the Hall.
McNally gave a video speech after he was inducted as a contributor.