Nick Buoniconti, Miami Dolphins’ Hall of Fame linebacker, dies at 78 after struggle with CTE and dementia

Nick Buoniconti and his son Marc
NFL legend Nick Buoniconti dies at 78. Pic credit: @ImageCollect/Globe-Photos

Former Miami Dolphins linebacker and Pro Football Hall of Famer Nick Buoniconti has died at the age of 78. The Miami Dolphins confirmed this on Twitter Wednesday.

According to a statement by Bruce Bobbins, the spokesperson for the Buoniconti family, he died on Tuesday in Bridgehampton, New York. The cause of death was not immediately revealed, but he is known to have struggled with Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) and dementia for some years before he died.

Who was Nick Buoniconti?

Buoniconti, born December 15, 1940,  was a native of Springfield, Massachusetts. He was a linebacker at Notre Dame before he was drafted by the Boston Patriots in the 13th round of the 1962 American Football League (AFL) Draft. The NFL bypassed him at the time because he was considered too small for an NFL linebacker at 5 feet 11 inches, and 220 pounds.

He played for Boston Patriot until 1968, making the AFL All-Star six times.

He also played for the Miami Dolphins from 1969 to 1976 and helped them to three consecutive Super Bowl appearances (1971-1973), two titles, and a historic 17-0 campaign in 1972.

Over the course of his illustrious career, Buoniconti was a two-time Pro-Bowler (1972, 1973) and two-time Super Bowl champion. His achievements were recognized when he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2001.

Before his death, he struggled with Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), a progressive degenerative condition of the brain that experts believe is due to repeated brain trauma. CTE is often associated with the development of dementia, a process of gradual cognitive decline that Buoniconti suffered in the years before he died.

Buoniconti was convinced that his CTE was caused by his football career and in 2017 he announced he would donate his brain for CTE research.

“I’m positive that football caused this [CTE],” he said.  “I always loved [football]. I still do. But I’m paying the price.”

The Buoniconti Fund formed

In 1985, he and his son, Marc, launched The Buoniconti Fund which raised more than half a billion dollars. They launched the effort after Marc became a quadriplegic due to a spinal cord injury he suffered during a college football game in 1985. The Fund was used to launch the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis, which went on to become one of the world’s top spinal cord injury research center.

“Today, with a heavy heart and profound sorrow, my family and the entire Miami Project to Cure Paralysis and Buoniconti Fund community mourn the loss of a man who was truly larger than life, my father, NFL Hall of Famer Nick Buoniconti,” Marc said in a statement. “My dad has been my hero and represents what I have always aspired to be; a leader, a mentor and a champion.”

Nick got a law degree while playing for the Patriots. He worked for some years after his retirement as an attorney and sports agent, representing athletes and sportsmen such as Andre Dawson and Bucky Dent. He also served as president of U.S. Tobacco.

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