BOSTON (CBS) — Pro Football Hall of Famer and Massachusetts native Nick Buoniconti has died. He was 78 years old.

The Springfield native played collegiately at Notre Dame before being drafted by the Boston Patriots in 1962. He’d end up playing seven seasons for the Patriots before joining the Miami Dolphins, where he spent the next seven seasons.

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During his NFL career, Buoniconti made eight Pro Bowls and five First Team All-Pro teams, and he helped the Dolphins to two Super Bowl victories. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2001.

“Today is a sad day for Patriots and Dolphins fans alike, as we mourn the loss of the legendary Nick Buoniconti,” Patriots owner Robert Kraft said in a release from the team. “He was a Hall of Fame player on the field, but more importantly, a hall of fame person off it. As an undersized, over-achieving linebacker, he quickly became a fan favorite in Boston, and he remains one of the most iconic homegrown players in franchise history. I had the pleasure of meeting Nick many times and spent time with him when we honored him both when he returned as a Patriots Hall of Famer and as a member of our 50th Anniversary team. He was a leader in every respect, and his work with the Miami Project is perhaps the greatest tribute to his legacy as a man who refused to give up and used his platform to advocate for others. On behalf of the Kraft family and the Patriots organization, we extend our sincerest condolences to the Buoniconti family, the Dolphins organization and all who mourn his loss.”

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Buoniconti’s late years were a struggle, as he decided in 2017 that he would be donating his brain for CTE research.

“This is not easy, it’s difficult. I’m not half the man I used to be,” Buoniconti said when announcing his decision. “I don’t do this for myself. I do it for the thousands of others who will follow me. My life, as I know it, has been taken away from me. … I hope that my story and contribution will help thousands of others who are in this journey, or who will follow me.”

Buoniconti and his wife started the Nick & Lynn Buoniconti CTE Research Fund, which is “committed to fighting CTE for the thousands of others who will benefit from effective treatments and eventually a cure.”

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Buoniconti also helped found The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis in 1985, after his son suffered a spinal cord injury while playing college football.