Having learned today that former Patriots and Dolphins linebacker Nick Buoniconti has died. A true legend of the NFL especially in the 1970s. His name is one that is truly underrated throughout NFL history. So I thought it would be best to remember his amazing career in the NFL and out of it.
Buoniconti was born in Springfield, Massachusetts in 1940. He played linebacker for Catherdal High School until he graduated and went to college at Notre Dame. During his time for the Fighting Irish, Buoniconti played both tackle and linebacker. In 1960 he had 71 tackles and then as a senior, he had 74 tackles. He was named co-captain of the 1961 Notre Dame team.
However, when it came to the 1962 AFL Draft, all the scouts believed he was too small to play tackle professionally. Having gone from co-captain at one of the best schools in the nation to now a 13th round draft pick. It must have hurt Buoniconti’s pride to see him fall, on the other hand, it gave him the chip on his shoulder he needed for motivation and boy did it pay off.
The Boston Patriots selected him with the 102nd pick and immediately decided to play him at linebacker. This paid dividends straight away for them as he was named the team’s rookie of the year. Buoniconti would play for the Patriots from 1962-1968, and in that time he amassed 8 All-AFL selections, 24 interceptions, a place on the all-time AFL team and a spot in the Patriots Hall of Fame. Despite only one playoff appearance during his time there, he was a tremendous player.
His time in Miami
All of a sudden in 1969, he was traded to the Miami Dolphins. Whilst in Miami, he would blossom into one of the best linebackers of his era. Buoniconti made another AFL All-Star team and All-AFL selection. More importantly, he became a winner as well as a leader again. Don Shula named Buoniconti captain of the ‘No Name Defense’ after he became the head coach in 1970. As the cornerstone of Miami’s defence, the Dolphins went undefeated winning their first Super Bowl against the Washington Redksins in 1972. A year later they were holding another Super Bowl trophy high above their heads as the Dolphins beat the Minnesota Vikings.
Nick Buoniconti was a three-time team MVP in Miami, was named to their Anniversary All-Time team and earned a spot on their Honor Roll in 1991. He was named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2001.
In 1976 Buoniconti retired from professional football and successfully transitioned into broadcasting and other avenues. After his son was paralysed in 1985 playing college football he helped to set up the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis. He’s been one of the leading figures in post-NFL injuries and concussion issues. As in 2017, he said he would posthumously donate his brain to aid CTE research.
In every aspect, Nick Buoniconti was a great man both on and off the field. He became a true Dolphins legend and deservedly earned his spot in the Hall of Fame. He was one of the best players of his era.
Alex Riley is a 49ers fan who’s followed the game since 2010, He’s currently at the University of Leicester. You can find him on Twitter at @NFLRiley and his blog at www.rileynfl.wordpress.com
Image from www.nbcnews.com