Small in size, large in determination – a relentless and hard-hitting force for the Patriots and Dolphins.
“He’s built like a fireplug, but covers the field like a halfback.”
— Kenny Graham, Chargers defense
Nicholas Anthony Buoniconti was born on December 15, 1940, in Springfield, Massachusetts. After playing high school football, Buoniconti went on to play offensive guard and defensive linebacker at Notre Dame, where he was an All-American at both positions.
Due to his size – 5’11″ and 220 pounds – most, including his Notre Dame coach, felt he was too small to pursue a career in the pros. Buoniconti saw it differently and, displaying what would become his trademark perseverance, was drafted by the Boston Patriots in 1962, in the thirteenth round. Although his stature brought initial concern from coaches – and numerous indelicate comments from opponents – Buoniconti “played bigger than his size.”
In 1963, Buoniconti played a key role in the Patriots’ capture of the AFL Eastern Division Title. The following year, he had a career-high five interceptions and was named All-Pro for the first time. He played seven seasons with the Patriots before being traded to the Miami Dolphins in 1969.
With the Dolphins, Buoniconti became a crucial element of the team’s “No Name Defense”, playing on three successive Super Bowl teams and winning back-to-back NFL championships in 1973 and 1974.
Buoniconti was selected as an All-Pro again in 1965, 1966, 1969 and 1972 and was named to the All-Time AFL team in 1970. He enjoyed a 14-year career in professional football with 32 career interceptions.
The National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame inducted Nick Buoniconti in 1985. He was elected to the Professional Football Hall of Fame in 2001.