Patriots’ Hall-of-Famer Nick Buoniconti Left Lasting Legacy

Nick Buoniconti and his son Marc

Getty Nick Buoniconti (right) with his son Marc at the 2009 Great Sports Legends Dinner to Cure Paralysis.

New England Patriots Hall of Fame linebacker Nick Buoniconti passed away on Tuesday at the age of 78. Despite the loss of one of football’s greatest linebackers, Buoniconti’s legacy will live on for his achievements on and off the field.

Aside from being a leading tackler and a health advocate, Buoniconti spent time as a sports agent – representing the likes of Andre Dawson among others – as well as a broadcaster and an attorney.

But above all, Buoniconti was a difference-maker. The lasting impact he made off the field will be felt far longer than the accomplishments he had on the gridiron.

Nick Buoniconti’s Patriots Legacy

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Selected out of Notre Dame in the 13th round of the 1962 AFL Draft, Buoniconti instantly became a crucial part of the Boston Patriots’ defense. A New England resident, the Springfield, Massachusetts native played the first seven years of his career close to home.

He helped lead the Patriots to a 1963 AFL Eastern Division title with a career-high 6.5 sacks to go along with three interceptions. A year later, Buoniconti set a career-high with five interceptions and added 4.5 sacks.

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During his time in Boston, he was selected to five straight AFL All-Star Games, earning the most votes out of any player in 1966. Finishing his Patriots career with 24 picks and 18 sacks, he was traded to the Miami Dolphins in 1969.

In Miami, he was even more of a force, anchoring the defense for the 1972 undefeated Super Bowl championship team. The next year, he made his second consecutive Pro Bowl with a team-record 162 tackles including 91 solo.

His impressive career numbers were rewarded with an induction into the Dolphins’ Honor Roll in 1991, the Patriots Hall of Fame in 1992, and the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2001.

Nick Buoniconti’s Off-Field Impact

But Buoniconti was more than just a great linebacker – he was an advocate for several causes leading the fields of medical research. He helped pioneer neurological research and most recently spoke out about the effects of CTE on retired football players, including himself.

Buoniconti revealed his dementia diagnosis two years ago, announcing he would posthumously donate his brain to scientists at Boston University to help with CTE research. Along with several former NFL players including Harry Carson, Buoniconti supported a parent initiative advising no tackling in football under the age of 14.

His first cause, however, came after a tragedy.

His son, Marc, was paralyzed in 1985 while playing for The Citadel and became a quadriplegic. To support his son, Buoniconti joined forces with the Miami Project for Paralysis Cure, a leading neurological research center. Marc remains the president of the foundation to this day.

In a 2017 ESPN article, Marc talked about his father’s humility and selflessness when it comes to neurological research.

“True to his nature, he continues to try and help others even while he wages his own battle,” said Marc Buoniconti. “Just as he has done for me for more than 32 years as we’ve searched for a cure for paralysis, we will all stand beside him as he searches for answers.”

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