Paralyzed at 19, Buoniconti has mixed feelings on football

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In this Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2020 photo, Marc Buoniconti, who was paralyzed from the shoulders down making a tackle in college in 1985, poses for a portrait in his office at the The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis in Miami. As the Super Bowl returns to Miami this week, Marc has mixed feelings about the sport. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

MIAMI, Fla. – With the Super Bowl coming to town, Marc Buoniconti sat in his office talking about the Chiefs-49ers matchup and wondered who was favored, so he looked at the phone strapped on the right arm of his wheelchair.

“Siri, what is the current point spread for the Super Bowl?” Buoniconti asked.

Answer: Chiefs by one.

Another answer: Yes, despite it all, Buoniconti still loves football.

Like no other family, the Buonicontis have experienced football glory and grief. Marc was paralyzed from the shoulders down making a tackle in college in 1985. His father, Nick, a Pro Football Hall of Fame linebacker, died last July after struggling with symptoms of CTE, a degenerative brain disease associated with repeated blows to the head.

Marc will watch Sunday's game, but like many fans these days, he has mixed feelings about the sport and its toll. And his emotions are drawn from firsthand experience.

“It's such a love-hate relationship with the game,” said Buoniconti, sitting by a sunny window at the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis. "Football opened up every door for my family, right? And then I had my injury, right? Football put me in my chair. And then who knew years and years later the toll it would have on my father.

“You look at everything football gave to the Buonicontis, but look at what it took away at the end.”