Citadel, former linebacker heal 20-year rift

Updated: February 15, 2006, 8:04 PM ET
Associated Press

CHARLESTON, S.C. -- The Citadel and former linebacker Marc Buoniconti, who was paralyzed making a tackle during a game more than 20 years ago, have ended a long-standing rift.

The state military college's board of visitors voted Wednesday to retire Buoniconti's No. 59 jersey and invited him to campus during Corps Day weekend March 18.

Buoniconti was injured Oct. 26, 1985, in a game at East Tennessee State.

Teammate Joel Thompson has worked to bring the school and Buoniconti back together, setting up a Web site to give The Citadel faithful a way to help raise funds for paralysis research. Buoniconti and his father, former Miami Dolphins All-Pro Nick Buoniconti, have raised almost $200 million for The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis.

"We are delighted to honor Marc Buoniconti and welcome him back to campus and The Citadel family," board chairman Billy Jenkinson said. "Buoniconti is most deserving of this recognition. The way he has turned personal tragedy into a means of service to others is an example of leadership that inspires us all."

Buoniconti said he appreciated the school's gesture to invite him back and retire his jersey during the upcoming football season.

"I have always been proud of my time at The Citadel with my teammates and classmates," Buoniconti said in a statement. "It will be an honor for me to return and be recognized again as part of The Citadel family."

After the injury, Buoniconti sued the college, along with the team doctor and trainer at the time. The Citadel and its trainer reached an $800,000 settlement during the 1988 trial. The jury, unaware of the settlement, later found in favor of the doctor.

The suit claimed Buoniconti was improperly treated for a neck sprain before the injury and contended he wasn't warned neck abnormalities made it dangerous for him to play.

The doctor's lawyers contended Buoniconti was injured because he made an illegal, headfirst tackle.

The legal battles distanced The Citadel from Buoniconti.

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press