Dolphins Hall of Fame linebacker Nick Buoniconti dead at 78

Pro Football Hall of Fame middle linebacker Nick Buoniconti, an undersized overachiever who helped lead the Miami Dolphins to the NFL’s only perfect season and became a leader in the effort to cure paralysis, has died at 78.

Buoniconti, who died Tuesday in Bridgehampton, N.Y., struggled in recent years with symptoms of CTE, a degenerative brain disease associated with repeated blows to the head. He recently had dealt with pneumonia, the Dolphins said.

At 5-foot-11, 220 pounds, Buoniconti was bypassed in the NFL draft after playing college ball at Notre Dame, but he put together a 15-year career, first with his hometown Boston Patriots (he was from Springfield, Mass.) of the AFL, then with Miami. He was captain of the Dolphins’ back-to-back Super Bowl champions, including the 1972 team that finished 17-0.

Following retirement, Buoniconti and his son, Marc, worked to raise more than a half-billion dollars for paralysis research. The younger Buoniconti was paralyzed from the shoulders down making a tackle for The Citadel in 1985.

Marc Buoniconti said his father was his biggest hero.

“He could have been sitting on the beach sipping Champagne for the rest of his life,” the younger Buoniconti said in 2017. “But what did he do? He went around and gave the rest of his life to help his son.”

Buoniconti was an attorney, a broadcaster, president of U.S. Tobacco and an agent to such athletes as Bucky Dent and Andre Dawson. For 23 seasons, he was co-host of HBO’s weekly show “Inside the NFL.”

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