Nick Buoniconti's Story
In memoriam 1940-2019
Nick Buoniconti, Pro Football Hall of Fame linebacker, lawyer, sports agent, executive, HBO broadcaster, loving father to his 3 children and devoted husband to his wife, Lynn, has pledged to donate his brain to Dr. McKee and the BU CTE Center. Nick and Lynn have also established a McKee CTE research fund to help advance CTE research and find a cure. Nick said "I don't do this for myself. I do it for the thousands of others who will follow me.”
Nick was born in the south end of Springfield, Massachusetts, the son of a baker, the grandson of Italian immigrants, surrounded by countless, loving relatives. He won a football scholarship to the University of Notre Dame where he became team captain and All-American. Considered by NFL scouts as "too small" to play pro football, Nick was drafted by the Boston Patriots into the American Football League in 1962 and quickly became their star defensive player. After 7 successful seasons in the AFL, he was traded to the NFL’s Miami Dolphins in 1969 where he remained for the next 7 years. His leadership made him the cornerstone of the Dolphins' renowned “No Name Defense” under the legendary coach Don Shula. Nick led the 1972 Dolphins to win the Super Bowl, still the only team in NFL history to win the Super Bowl with a perfect season. In addition to Nick, the undefeated Dolphin campaign included Earl Morrall, another brain donor to the VA-BU-CLF brain bank, as quarterback.
Click HERE to learn more about Earl Morall's Story.
Click HERE to learn more about the History of Dolphin Player from 1972
Nick earned a law degree at night while playing football with the Patriots and transitioned into a successful attorney and sports agent after retiring from the NFL in 1976. In 1979, he co-hosted HBO’s Inside the NFL with Len Dawson, a job he held for more than two decades while raising his children, Nick Jr., Gina and Marc.
In the fall of 1985, Nick’s youngest son Marc was paralyzed while playing football at The Citadel. Vowing not to rest until Marc walked again, Nick co-founded the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis that has now raised over 500 million dollars for paralysis research.
Nick married the love of his life, Lynn, in 1997. Lynn, the owner of a successful New York travel business and Nick, twelve years her senior, were instant soul mates: smart, energetic, engaging extroverts who loved to travel, ski, play golf, and socialize with friends.
In 2001, Nick was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Nick’s health began to deteriorate in his late 60’s. Nick became more forgetful, with trouble speaking and frequent falls. He experienced problems driving, misjudged turns, and sometimes drove the wrong way down streets. Depression and impatience set in, as did difficulty buttoning his shirt or putting on his coat.
At 78, balance and walking difficulties had largely confined Nick to a wheelchair. His good moments were increasingly rare. In 2017, Nick was thoroughly evaluated at the BU CTE Center Concierge Clinic by Drs. Ann McKee, David Greer and Robert Stern, and was diagnosed with probable CTE. (Click HERE for Concierge Clinic)
The BU Concierge team’s excellent care and management of Nick’s condition had led to remarkable improvements in Nick’s sleep, overall health and quality of life.
Nick was in the greatest fight of his life. Nick, a man of extraordinary courage and determination in the face of all manner of adversity, is now facing a devastating, untreatable disease, CTE. To help Nick now is to help advance CTE research so that CTE can be diagnosed during life and, most importantly, CTE can be cured.
When Nick decided to donate his brain and develop a research fund to accelerate Dr. McKee’s research on CTE, he said, “I owe it to the thousands of others who will follow me on this trek,” “My life is not what it was, and I just want to be able to help with Ann’s research and hopefully the research will end up helping so many other players.”
Nick knows that donations to help further CTE research are unlikely to provide help for him in his lifetime, but he is passionate about helping others in his fight against CTE.
“We are profoundly saddened to learn of Nick Buoniconti’s passing. Nick was one of a kind, an NFL Hall of Fame legend whose impact on the field was remarkable, but whose impact off the field was even more so.” Ann McKee, MD