Buoniconti returns home

The Pro Football Hall of Fame and Allstate Insurance Company’s “Hometown Hall of Famer™” program traveled to Springfield, Mass. where Hall of Fame linebacker Nick Buoniconti was honored at his alma mater, Cathedral High School. The ceremony was an especially significant opportunity for Cathedral High School to celebrate hometown pride, as their facility was devastated by a tornado in 2011. The entire high school has been temporarily relocated to a former elementary school in Wilbraham, Mass., where the ceremony was held but that did not deter the presentation.

The school’s auditorium was packed to capacity as approximately 350 students, community members and Buoniconti's family and friends, including his 95-year-old mother Pat, gathered to honor one of the sport’s greatest legends. Notable attendees included Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno and Massachusetts House Representative Brian Ashe, who presented Buoniconti with an official citation that recognized Buoniconti’s many accomplishments.

“To be honored by your hometown community is to truly reach the pinnacle of success,” said Buoniconti who was enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2001. “I was able to take advantage of opportunities that all of the students here today have before them. I hope that you each maximize these opportunities as you choose your own road of life.”

Speakers from Cathedral High School including John Sadak, one of Buoniconti’s former high school teammates, recalled fond memories of growing up with Buoniconti and his impact on the school and Springfield. Plaque presenter Billy Kingston recalled that you never wanted to tell his friend “Skippy” Buoniconti that he couldn’t achieve something and how that determination carried him to such successes in life. Allstate representative Kurt Wicks commended Buoniconti for his contributions to Springfield, and the city for how its citizens have banded together to recover from the tornadoes. 

Nick Buoniconti has displayed tremendous leadership on and off the field,” said George Veras, president and CEO of Pro Football Hall of Fame Enterprises. “He exemplifies the spirit of the Hall of Fame and the Hometown Hall of Famer™ program.”

Several speakers mentioned Buoniconti’s humanitarian contributions as a significant part of his legacy, referencing his tireless efforts to help The Miami Project support spinal cord injury research by raising funds and awareness. Buoniconti’s commitment to this cause began with a promise he made to his son Marc, who was paralyzed due to a tragic football injury.  At the end of the ceremony, Buoniconti was presented by the football team captains with an unexpected donation for The Miami Project, raised by the students.

“To be part of a program that brings the prestige and tradition of the Pro Football Hall of Fame to cities like Springfield is an honor for Allstate, our agents and employees,” said Lisa Cochrane, Allstate’s senior vice president of marketing.

A successful student-athlete in high school, Buoniconti went on to play college football at the University of Notre Dame. Despite being seen as undersized at 5-11, 220 pounds, Buoniconti was named captain of the Fighting Irish during the 1961 season.

Buoniconti was selected in the 13th round, 102nd overall in the 1962 American Football League Draft by the Boston Patriots.  He earned All-AFL acclaim five times with the Patriots before he was traded to the Miami Dolphins in 1969. In Miami, he became the steadying force on team’s famous “No-Name Defense” that helped the team to two Super Bowl titles including an undefeated season in 1972. He was named All-AFL in his first season with the Dolphins and earned All-Pro honors during the team’s undefeated season.

In all, Buoniconti registered 32 career interceptions during his 14-season, 183-game pro career. He was named to the AFL’s All-Time Team and voted to eight AFL All-Star Games/Pro Bowls.

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