On Saturday, former New England Patriots cornerback Ty Law will join his fellow franchise greats in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. One of them is linebacker Nick Buoniconti, who started his career when the team was still calling Boston its home. Today, at the age of 78, Buoniconti has passed away.
Buoniconti, a member of the Patriots’ 50th anniversary team and team Hall of Fame, played seven seasons for the organization when it was still competing in the upstart American Football League. Between 1962, when he was drafted in the 13th round, and 1968, he appeared in 93 games for the team and was the heart of the its defense — all while being voted AFL all-star (the equivalent of today’s Pro Bowl) five times.
In one of the most questionable moves in Patriots history, however, the franchise decided to trade him in his prime to the Miami Dolphins. In Florida, Buoniconti would add two Super Bowl titles and two more Pro Bowl selections to his already impressive résumé. In 1976, after eight years with the Dolphins, the Massachusetts native decided to retire from the now-NFL. 25 years later, he was enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Buoniconti, who raised more than $450 million in support of spinal cord-injury and paralysis research after his son Mark was paralyzed from the neck down in 1985 as a result of an on-field injury, saw his health begin to decline in his early 70s. Recently, he was showing signs of CTE as he told Sports Illustrated’s S.L. Price: “I’m not normal anymoreI feel lost. I feel like a child.”