On July 30, the football world lost Hall of Fame linebacker Nick Buoniconti. He was 78.
Buoniconti grew up in Springfield, Massachusetts, a city better known for its basketball roots. He played for the now-closed Cathedral High School. Following high school, Buoniconti was a standout for The University of Notre Dame Fighting Irish football team.
At Notre Dame, Buoniconti was a leader in tackles and in the locker room. In his 1961 season, he served as co-captain and was the only All-American.
Buoniconti’s first shot at professional football brought him home. The Boston Patriots drafted him in 1962. He spent his first seven seasons with the American Football League team.
Buoniconti played another seven seasons, but with a different team. He won two Super Bowl rings while finishing out his career with the Dolphins.
In 2001, Buoniconti joined an elite Hall of Fame class that included Mike Munchak and Jackie Slater. He was also honored in the Patriots Hall of Fame, Miami Dolphins honor roll, and AFL All-Time team.
There was more to Buoniconti than football. He had a law degree and was a sports agent for some time. His greatest post-football pursuit, however, was the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis.
Playing football for the Citadel in 1985, Buoniconti’s son, Marc, became paralyzed. He attempted to make a tackle and suffered a spinal cord injury.
After the tragedy, Buoniconti decided to start the Miami Project. This project leads research into paralysis and finding a cure for injuries like Marc’s. Due to Buoniconti’s devotion and advocacy, the Miami Project at The University of Miami is one of the world’s top neurological research centers.
Buoniconti openly talked about his own neurological health post-football. He, like many other NFL players, struggled with neurological issues that they knew stemmed from too much physical contact to the head. That’s why, in 2017, decided that he would posthumously donate his brain to CTE research at Boston University.
While the world may have lost a legend, the work Nick Buoniconti leaves behind is a legacy greater than football.
Nick Buoniconti became the face of change, seeking out more research and advances for those who suffer from neurological injuries. His pursuit spoke for the many families who have dealt with similar situations. Most importantly, however, he fought for his son.
Buoniconti brought awareness to the affects of too much head contact in football and the damage it does to the human brain. He even advocated for an age limit on tackle football. His opinion wasn’t the popular thing to do, but it was the right thing to do.
To learn more about Nick Buoniconti, his career, and his life work, check out HBO’s “The Many Lives of Nick Buoniconti.”
Featured Image via Sportsnaut