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Miami Dolphins Hall of Famer Nick Buoniconti dead at 78

By
Alex Butler
Nick Buoniconti spent 14 seasons in the NFL, including seven with the Miami Dolphins and seven with the Boston Patriots, before retiring after the 1976 season. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI
Nick Buoniconti spent 14 seasons in the NFL, including seven with the Miami Dolphins and seven with the Boston Patriots, before retiring after the 1976 season. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

DAVIE, July 31 (UPI) -- Miami Dolphins legend and Hall of Fame linebacker Nick Buoniconti is dead at age 78.

Buoniconti, who died Tuesday, suffered from the effects of chronic traumatic encephalopathy and launched the Nick & Lynn Buoniconti CTE Research Fund, based at Boston Medical Center. He also had dementia and had been admitted into hospice earlier this week, according to the Palm Beach Post.

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CTE is a progressive degenerative disease of the brain found in people with a history of repetitive brain trauma, according to Boston University's CTE Center.

Buoniconti announced in 2017 that he would donate his brain to the CTE research team at the university and the Concussion Legacy Foundation.

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"This is not easy, it's difficult. I'm not half the man I used to be," Buoniconti told ESPN in 2017. "I don't do this for myself. I do it for the thousands of others who will follow me.

"My life, as I know it, has been taken away from me. ... I hope that my story and contribution will help thousands of others who are in this journey, or who will follow me."

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Dolphins legend and Buoniconti's former teammate Nat Moore said his friend also had a "bout with pneumonia."

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"Thank God he is in a better place right now and his suffering is over," Moore said Wednesday at Dolphins training camp.

Buoniconti entered the league as a 13th-round pick by the Boston Patriots in the 1962 American Football League Draft. He was traded to the Dolphins in 1969 and went on to win back-to-back Super Bowls for the 1972 and 1973 seasons.

The eight-time Pro Bowl selection and five-time All-Pro was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2011.

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"Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of Nick Buoniconti," the Dolphins said in a statement.

Buoniconti played at Notre Dame before joining the Patriots. His 32 interceptions are the third-most for a linebacker in league history.

"Nick Buoniconti was a true hero of the game," Pro Football Hall of Fame president and CEO David Baker said in a statement. "His inspiring Hall of Fame journey that started as a 13th round draft choice to leading the Dolphins 'No Name' defense is one filled with grit, determination, courage and compassion.

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"Nick's contributions off the field were even greater than what he did on it. He lived a life of honor and nobility and his legacy will live forever through his Bronzed Bust in Canton, Ohio.

"The entire Hall of Fame family mourns Nick's passing and we will keep his wife Lynn and his entire family in our thoughts and prayers."

Buoniconti also raised more than $450 million for research for the treatment of spinal cord and brain injuries. He worked for HBO's Inside the NFL for 23 seasons after his playing career ended. Buoniconti also worked as a sports agent.

Buoniconti co-founded the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis. His son, Marc Buoniconti, released a statement on the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis website.

"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," the statement said.

"My dad has been my hero and represents what I have always aspired to be; a leader, a mentor and a champion. He selflessly gave all to football, to his family and to those who are less fortunate.

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"He made a promise to me that turned into a revolution in paralysis research. We can best honor his dedication and endless commitment by continuing with our work until that promise is fulfilled and a cure is found."

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