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Former Irish Linebacker Nick Buoniconti Dies at 78

NOTRE DAME, Ind.Former Notre Dame football All-American and Pro Football Hall of Famer Nick Buoniconti passed away on Tuesday in Bridgehampton, New York. He was 78.

Buoniconti, a 1962 graduate of the University, was seen as an undersized defensive student-athlete, but led the Irish in tackles during his senior campaign (1961) en route to an All-America citation. Following his senior season, he participated in the East-West Shrine Classic.

The Springfield, Massachusetts, native went undrafted in the 1962 NFL Draft before being taken in the 13th round of the AFL Draft by the Boston Patriots. Buoniconti spent seven seasons in the league and was selected for the All-Star Game on six occasions. He finished his Patriots career with 24 interceptions.

Buoniconti joined the Miami Dolphins in 1969 as the centerpiece and leader of the legendary “No-Name Defense.” As a team captain he led the team to an undefeated 17-0 record and a Super Bowl title in 1972. The following year, he set the team record for tackles with 162. He was named to the Pro Bowl in both of those years, and was named the Dolphins Defensive Most Valuable Player in 1969, 1970 and 1973. 

Buoniconti finished his playing career with the Dolphins, retiring in 1976. He recorded 32 interceptions in the NFL, as well as six unofficial sacks. In 1991, he was inducted into the Miami Dolphins Honor Roll at Hard Rock Stadium.

Following his player career, Buoniconti made it his life’s work to give back. In 1985, he and his son, Marc, helped found the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis, one of the largest spinal cord injury research centers in the World.

In 2001, Buoniconti was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.