Hall of Fame linebacker Nick Buoniconti dies at 78

Pro Football Hall of Fame linebacker Nick Buoniconti died at the age of 78.

The Miami Dolphins confirmed the news of the passing.

An eight-time Pro Bowler and five-time All-Pro, Buoniconti was a two-time Super Bowl champion with the Dolphins and played a pivotal role during the 1972 Perfect Season, when Miami went 17-0 and won Super Bowl VII.

Pro Football Hall of Fame President and CEO David Baker offered his condolences over the passing.

"Nick Buoniconti was a true hero of the game. 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. 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."

The 102nd overall pick in the 1962 AFL Draft, Buoniconti began his career and played seven seasons with the Boston Patriots. The linebacker was named to five AFL All-Star Games and four AFL All-Pro teams as a member of the Pats.

Ahead of the 1969 season, Buoniconti was traded to Miami where he spent seven years and played under and alongside fellow Hall of Famers Don Shula, Bob Griese, Larry Csonka and Paul Warfield.

Buoniconti finished his career with 32 interceptions, the third-most by a linebacker in NFL history.

The linebacker was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2001. Buoniconti is also a member of both the PatriotsHall of Fame and Dolphins Honor Roll.

Off the field, Buoniconti will be remembered for raising more than $450 million for research into the treatment of spinal cord and brain injuries. After his son, Marc, was rendered quadriplegic while playing football in 1985, Buoniconti co-founded the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis, one of the world's leading neurological research centers.

"All of us at the NFL are deeply saddened by the passing of Nick Buoniconti," NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said in statement. "Nick will be remembered as a champion on and off the field. He was the leader of one of the most dominant NFL teams in history and earned his place in the Pro Football Hall of Fame with his grit, fearlessness and skill while playing with the Patriots and Dolphins.

Goodell continued: "Nick was also a broadcaster and businessman, but his biggest impact was through the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis, which he co-founded in 1985. The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis has become one of the country's largest neurological centers and has provided funds for spinal and brain research; as well as hope and comfort to thousands of people and their families. We extend our condolences to his wife Lynn, his daughter Gina, his sons Marc and Nick, and his entire family."

Buoniconti also worked on HBO's "Inside the NFL" for 23 seasons and spent time as an agent to over 30 professional athletes such as Andre Dawson and Bucky Dent.

Marc Buoniconti issued the following sentiments on the passing of his father:

"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. 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. 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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