Miami Dolphins legend and Pro Football Hall of Fame member Nick Buoniconti broke a long silence this week, choosing to finally discuss his failing health with Sports Illustrated’s S.L. Price. Scheduled to be released in the May 15 issue of the magazine, the article was released on Tuesday on MMQB’s website, and it cannot be more highly recommended that you read it.
One excerpt, to show you exactly where the Dolphins’ “No Name Defense” captain is in dealing with the effects of football and failing health, reads:
Few longtime players—much less linebackers—emerged from the NFL fray more spectacularly intact. After retirement in 1976 Buoniconti went on to hit a pinnacle in three more careers: attorney and agent for 30 pro athletes; millionaire president of U.S. Tobacco; co-host for 23 years on HBO’s Inside the NFL. In 2009, when I met him to write a Sports Illustrated piece on Marc [Buoniconti's son who was paralyzed by a hit on the football field in 1985], Nick was humming along with No. 4, the Miami Project. He was 68, looked 15 years younger, played golf daily; he and Lynn lived in a $1.98 million home in Coral Gables. He sat on the terrace of his nearby country club, dynamic and bluntly eloquent. People kept stopping to say hello.
The family liked the story, but I didn’t speak to Nick again. Then, last October, he left a phone message. Nick, his words slightly halting, asked me to call him back and recited his number. “Okay,” he said. “Goodbye.”
Then came a long pause. You could hear him turn away from the phone. Finally Buoniconti asked, “How do you hang up, Lynn?”
Her voice, quavering, rose in disbelief. “ ‘How do you hang up?’ ” Lynn called from the background.
Then the line went dead.
A little more from the article:
His handwriting slowed, and became spidery. On a freezing day he came home distressed from the gym; he couldn’t figure out how to put on his coat. By then his falling had become commonplace—taking out the garbage, walking the dog, standing up from a chair. He’d drop like a sack of cement, face-first, and bleed plenty but feel no pain; by the end of 2014 he was averaging nearly one serious spill a month. And with each fall he got angrier, resenting his body—the instrument that gave him everything—for betraying him.
It is a long article, but please take the time to read it. Absolutely well worth it, and it is a good look at the struggles of those 1972 Miami Dolphins players (including Earl morrall and Bill Stanfill, who both were found to have advanced chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) after their deaths, as well as Jim Kiick who is living in an assisted care facility after living with early-onset dementia issues for years) who are still the only Perfect Season team in NFL history - even as their bodies fail them more and more.