Nick Buoniconti, NFL Hall of Famer, Dead at 78

Pro Football Hall of Fame linebacker Nick Buoniconti passed away on Tuesday at the age of 78. The cause of death was not revealed at the time, but CBS News has reported that Buoniconti struggled with dementia.

"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," Nick's son, Marc Buoniconti, said in a statement. "My dad has been my hero and represents what I have always aspired to be: a leader, a mentor and a champion."

Marc was paralyzed while playing football at the age of 19, causing the elder Buoniconti to help launch the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis. He helped raise hundreds of millions of dollars for research.

"He selflessly gave all to football, to his family and to those who are less fortunate," Marc continued. "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."

Buoniconti originally entered the league as a 13th-round draft pick of the Boston of the AFL. He played for the Patriots from 1962 to 1968 and was named to the AFL All-Star Game six times. Buoniconti registered 24 career interceptions for the Patriots, including three in a single game in 1968.

Buoniconti was an eight-time Pro Bowler and won Super Bowl titles with the Miami Dolphins in 1972 and 1973. This included the 17-0 season, which remains the only perfect record in NFL history. As a member of the Dolphins in 1973, Buoniconti set a team record for tackles with 162. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2001.

Even after passing away, Buoniconti will help further critical research that could have an impact on the NFL in future generations. He said in November 2017 that he would donate his brain for CTE research. Buoniconti revealed that he was suffering from memory loss and could not use his left hand.

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"Without football, I probably would have joined my dad in the bakery business. I loved it, always loved it, still do. But I am paying the price," Buoniconti said in an interview about his condition.

Following his retirement from the football, Buoniconti served as an attorney, as president of U.S. Tobacco and as an agent for other athletes.