"One day I was a normal kid - thinking about school, sports
and girls. The next thing you know, I'm out there talking to people
about paralysis. My goal is to get everyone out of these chairs."
- Marc Buoniconti.
Marc Buoniconti was only 19 when his normal world of school,
sports and girls came crashing down. He wound up a quadriplegic,
his neck broken.
That terrifying incident was 10 years ago, and Buoniconti faced
a long, agonizing recovery, with no hope of walking again.
Now, thanks to the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis, there is
On Thursday, the 10th anniversary of Buoniconti's near-fatal
injury, ground will be broken by the Miami Project on the campus of
the University of Miami School of Medicine-Jackson Memorial Center
for a research facility for spinal cord injuries.
"It's not a celebration, because you can't celebrate something
like this," said the 29-year-old son of Nick Buoniconti, the former
All-Pro linebacker for the Miami Dolphins and Boston Patriots. "But
it will be a commemoration."
It was Oct. 26, 1985, when Marc Buoniconti, then a robust and
healthy 220-pound middle linebacker for the Citadel, went out to
play against East Tennessee State.
Unlike actor Christopher Reeve, who remembers nothing of the
recent accident that resulted in his paralysis, Buoniconti recalls
"It was on an option play, a fake to the fullback, on a
third-and-one situation," he said. "He (the quarterback) pitched it
instead, and it was a sweep. The center tried to cut me, but I
fought off the block. In retrospect, I wish he had cut me.
"I was coming up to make the tackle. Another linebacker also
hit him. It was a simultaneous impact. He was going for the first
down and we stopped him as he was in the air.
"His body was flipping around and it hit my head. My body
rolled over, and I saw my arm fall to the turf. Had it not been
connected to my shoulder, I wouldn't have known it was my arm.
"I knew immediately I was paralyzed."
Buoniconti spent a year in a hospital and was on a ventilator
for eight months. "I couldn't breathe without it," he said.
"One minute I was in the best shape of my life, the next minute
I was fighting for it," Buoniconti said.
He had sustained a broken C-3 vertebra, a severe spinal cord
injury that would leave him paralyzed from the shoulders down.
"I'm not bitter," Buoniconti said. "I love the game, and I
still have great respect for the Citadel."
That respect could have been shattered by the accident.
Buoniconti had gone into the East Tennessee State game with a neck
injury, suffered about a month earlier.
"It was getting progressively worse," he said. "I should never
have been allowed on the field. …