HOF: Buoniconti named as Senior finalist


Nick Buoniconti with Miami

Nick Buoniconti, a 5-11, 220-pound middle linebacker, who played 14 seasons (1962-1974, 1976) with the Boston Patriots and the Miami Dolphins, has been selected by the Pro football Hall of Fame's Senior Committee as a finalist for election into the Hall of Fame with the Class of 2001.
As the Senior Committee nominee, Buoniconti will join 14 still-to-be-named Modern-Era candidates on the list of finalists from which the Class of 2001 will be selected. The Hall of Fame selection meeting will be held on January 27, 2001, the day before Super Bowl XXXV in Tampa, Florida. To be elected, Buoniconti must receive the same 80 percent voting support that is required of all finalists. The Hall's 38-member Board of Selectors will elect between four and seven new members during next January's meeting.

A guard on offense and linebacker on defense at Notre Dame, Buoniconti defied all the numbers by which pro scouts judge potential. An undersized player, he wasn't even drafted by a National Football League team, and lasted until the thirteenth round of the 1962 American Football League draft, before being tapped by the Patriots. Even his coach at Notre Dame advised NFL scouts that he was too small to play in the pros. However, as several coaches later noted, Buoniconti "played bigger than his size."

Nick Buoniconti (85) during
his Patriots' days

In Boston, Nick made an immediate impact at middle linebacker, helping the Patriots capture the 1963 AFL Eastern Division title. In seven seasons with the Patriots, he played in five AFL All-Star games and a sixth after being traded to the Dolphins in 1969. Following the AFL-NFL merger in 1970, he was named to two more Pro Bowls in 1973 and 1974.

The driving force of the Dolphins' famed "No Name Defense," Nick inspired his teammates with his outstanding play and fiery leadership. During his years with the Dolphins the team advanced to three straight Super Bowl appearances, winning two, with one coming after their incredible undefeated season in 1972.

"Every play is like life or death," he once said, when asked why he was so relentless. "I can't think of anything except the play that is taking place at the moment."

Named to the All-Time AFL team in 1970, Buoniconti recorded 32 career interceptions and was named a first team All-AFL/AFC choice eight times.

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