MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Miami Dolphins fans remember Nick Buoniconti as the hard hitting Hall of Famer who helped the Dolphins win two Super Bowls, and record the only perfect season in NFL history.
But video, provided by his family to Sports Illustrated, shows Buoniconti in a tragically different light.
Buoniconti, now 76 years old, struggles to even put on a T-shirt. His family says his decline began four years ago. Now, they say, he loses his memory and his balance.
“It’s just so stunning to hear this that I still can’t fathom the idea that this guy who would knock your head off would be in this kind of position,” said former teammate Mercury Morris.
Morris recalls a totally different Buoniconti, a football hero who then raised millions of dollars to help fight paralysis after his son Marc was hurt playing football.
“He went to work in the same way in that response for that cause as he did for us,” Morris said.
Marc Buoniconti released a statement, which read:
“This has been my dad’s reality for a while now, and it’s been a frustrating and heartbreaking journey. To see him like this after all he’s done to help others breaks my heart, and makes me want to do everything I can to find some answers for him and the countless other athletes dealing with these issues. We ask for your continued support as we try to help my father as he wages his courageous battle.”
Buoniconti played 14 NFL seasons, seven with the Dolphins. Could football be to blame for his condition?
“I don’t think you can pin it on football. Football may have something to do it with it, because all of us start losing it after a while,” Morris said.
A few other players from the ’72 Dolphins have reported similar issues.
Earl Morrall, who died three years ago, had CTE – the brain disease most linked to football.
Buoniconti told our news partner The Miami Herald that he has gone public on behalf of other players who he says don’t have a voice.