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"There is no better schoolyard than football. It taught you how to win, how to lose, what adversity was, how to play hurt. It taught you that with winning comes rewards.”
(Notre Dame)...5'11'', 220...Nicholas Anthony Buoniconti. . .Thirteenth-round AFL draft pick, 1962. . . Made immediate impact with Patriots. . . Played in five AFL All-Star Games with Patriots, one with Dolphins. . .Following AFL-NFL merger, named to two Pro Bowls. . . Driving force behind Miami’s famed “No-Name Defense”. . .Played in three Super Bowls. . .Named first team All-AFL/AFC eight times. . .Voted to All-Time AFL team, 1969. . .Born December 15, 1940, in Springfield, Massachusetts ... Died July 30, 2019, at the age of 78.
Nick Buoniconti played guard on offense and linebacker on defense at Notre Dame. An undersized player, he defied all the numbers by which pro scouts judge potential. 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 Boston Patriots. Even his coach at Notre Dame advised AFL and NFL scouts that he was too small to play in the pros. However, as several coaches later noted, Buoniconti “played bigger than his size.”
The 5-11, 220-pound middle linebacker went on to play 14 seasons (1962-1974, 1976) with the Patriots and the Miami Dolphins. Determined to succeed, the Springfield, Massachusetts native made an immediate impact at linebacker with the Patriots helping the team capture the 1963 AFL Eastern Division title. During his seven seasons with the Pats, the hard-hitting, freelancing linebacker recorded 24 interceptions which still ranks as seventh in team history. He had a career-high five interceptions in 1964, and in one game in 1968 against the Buffalo Bills he grabbed three errant passes. Although he never returned an interception for a touchdown, he twice scored on fumble recoveries.
Buoniconti played in five AFL All-Star games as a Patriot and a sixth after being traded to the Dolphins in 1969. That season he was named the team’s Most Valuable Player, an honor he would again be awarded in 1970 and 1973. His outstanding play in 1972 and 1973 earned him two more Pro Bowl berths, and in 1973, he set a then-team record of 162 tackles, 91 of which were unassisted. 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.” Buoniconti, who recorded 32 career interceptions, was named to the All-Time AFL team in 1970, and was named a first team All-AFL/AFC choice eight times.
1963 AFL – San Diego Chargers 51, Boston Patriots 10
Buoniconti started at middle linebacker for the Patriots.
1971 AFC – Miami Dolphins 21, Baltimore Colts 0
Buoniconti started at middle linebacker for the Dolphins. He had seven tackles and four assists.
1972 AFC – Miami Dolphins 21, Pittsburgh Steelers 17
Buoniconti started at middle linebacker for the Dolphins. He had four assists and one interception for six yards.
1973 AFC – Miami Dolphins 27, Oakland Raiders 10
Buoniconti started at middle linebacker for the Dolphins. He had four tackles and six assists.
Super Bowl VI – Dallas Cowboys 24, Miami Dolphins 3
Buoniconti started at middle linebacker for the Dolphins. He had seven tackles and five assists.
Super Bowl VII – Miami Dolphins 14, Washington Redskins 7
Buoniconti started at middle linebacker for the Dolphins. He had two tackles, one assist and one interception for 32 yards.
Super Bowl VIII – Miami Dolphins 24, Minnesota Vikings 7
Buoniconti started at middle linebacker for the Dolphins. He had four tackles, four assists and one pass defensed.
All-AFL: 1963 (NEA) • 1964 (AP, UPI, OL, NEA, NY) • 1965 (AP, UPI, OL, NEA, NY) • 1966 (AP, UPI, OL, NEA, NY) • 1967 (AP, UPI, SN, NY) • 1968 (SN) • 1969 (AP, UPI, NEA)
All-AFL Second Team: 1962 (UPI) • 1963 (AP, UPI, NY) • 1967 (NEA) • 1968 (UPI) • 1969 (SN)
All-Pro Second Team: 1972 (AP, PFWA)
All-AFC: 1972 (AP)
All-AFC Second Team: 1972 (UPI) • 1973 (UPI)
(8) – 1964A, 1965A, 1966A, 1967A, 1968A, 1970A, 1973*, 1974
AAFL All-Star Game * Did not play
(Patriots' records held by Buoniconti at the time he was traded to Dolphins following the 1968 season)
• [Tied for 1st] Most Interceptions, Game – 3 – (vs. Buffalo, Oct. 20, 1968)
• [2nd] Most Interceptions, Career – 24
Awards and Honors
• All-Time AFL Team
Full Name: Nicholas Anthony Buoniconti
Birthdate: December 15, 1940
Birthplace: Springfield, Massachusetts
High School: Cathedral (Springfield, MA)
Elected to Pro Football Hall of Fame: January, 27, 2001
Enshrined into Pro Football Hall of Fame: August 4, 2001
Presenter: Marc Buoniconti, Nick's son
Other Members of Class of 2001: Marv Levy, Mike Munchak, Jackie Slater, Lynn Swann, Ron Yary, Jack Youngblood
Pro Career: 14 seasons, 183 games
Drafted: 13th round (102nd overall) in 1962 by Boston Patriots, AFL
Uniform Number: 85, (66)