REPORT: Former Miami Dolphins Underdog Hero, Survivor Of Famous Airplane Crash With Ric Flair, Died At 80

“I’m just an old banger who was at the right place at the right time.” These were the humble words of Bob Bruggers, a former underdog linebacker for the Miami Dolphins who etched his name into NFL lore through sheer perseverance and an incredible will to live. 

Bruggers, who passed away recently at the age of 80, was one of the fortunate survivors of a horrific 1975 plane crash that also carried wrestling legend Ric Flair. His courageous actions that day cemented his status as a true hero, both on and off the field.

Former Miami Dolphins LB Bob Bruggers died

The football world mourns the loss of Bob Bruggers, a former linebacker for the Miami Dolphins who defied the odds and carved out a respectable NFL career despite going undrafted out of the University of Minnesota. While his professional stats may not jump off the page, Bruggers’ impact extended far beyond the gridiron, as he embodied the resilience and determination that defined the Dolphins’ historic 17-0 season in 1972.

Bruggers’ journey to the NFL was a testament to his unwavering spirit. After a standout career with the Golden Gophers, where he excelled in football, basketball, and track, he went undrafted in 1967. Undeterred, he signed with the San Diego Chargers as a free agent, spending two seasons with the team before joining the Dolphins in 1969.

It was in Miami where Bruggers truly etched his name in Dolphins lore, contributing as a valuable reserve and special teams player during the team’s perfect 1972 season – a feat that remains unmatched in the modern NFL era.

Bruggers Survived a Famous Airplane crash

Bruggers survived a famous airplane crash

Bruggers’ legacy, however, extends far beyond his on-field accomplishments. In October 1975, he found himself caught in the midst of one of the most harrowing plane crashes in sports history. The chartered plane carrying the Dolphins team, along with several wrestling stars including Ric Flair, ran out of fuel and crashed in a Georgia forest, just moments after the pilot desperately attempted an emergency landing.

The impact was catastrophic, with the plane breaking apart and bursting into flames. Bruggers, who suffered a broken arm and severe lacerations, immediately sprang into action, risking his own life to pull teammates and fellow passengers from the wreckage.

Among those he helped rescue was the legendary Ric Flair, whose iconic “Nature Boy” robe was later recovered from the crash site, singed but intact – a symbol of the resilience displayed by all the survivors that fateful day.

Fans remember Bob Bruggers

In the wake of Bruggers’ passing, heartfelt tributes have poured in from fans, former teammates, and those whose lives he touched both on and off the field. Many have lauded his toughness, humility, and the genuine concern he showed for others, even in the face of unimaginable adversity.

“Bob was the ultimate team player and a guy you wanted in your foxhole. He never complained, never sought the limelight, and was always there to pick up his teammates when they needed it most,” shared former Dolphins coach Don Shula.

Miami Dolphins legend Larry Csonka echoed similar sentiments, stating, “Bob was the embodiment of what it means to be a Dolphin – tough, resilient, and always putting the team first. His actions during and after that plane crash exemplified the character and courage he displayed every day.”

For wrestling fans, Bruggers’ connection to Ric Flair and that fateful plane crash has made him a beloved figure in the industry. Flair himself has spoken at length about the bond he shared with Bruggers, crediting him with saving his life that day.

“Bob Bruggers was a true hero, plain and simple,” Flair said. “Without his quick thinking and bravery, I might not be here today. He’ll always have a special place in my heart, and in the hearts of wrestling fans worldwide.”

Why is Ric Flair called the Nature Boy?

Why is Ric Flair called the Nature Boy

The airplane crash that brought Bruggers and Flair together also played a pivotal role in solidifying one of the most iconic nicknames in wrestling history – the “Nature Boy.”

Ric Flair’s Career Highlights
16-time World Heavyweight Champion
2-time WWE Hall of Fame inductee
Widely regarded as one of the greatest wrestlers of all time

Flair’s “Nature Boy” moniker was a nod to the legendary Nature Boy Buddy Rogers, one of the pioneers of the flamboyant, charismatic wrestling style that Flair would come to embody. However, it was the survival of Flair’s iconic robe from the 1975 plane crash that truly cemented the nickname’s legacy.

The robe, which Flair had adorned for countless matches and interviews, emerged from the wreckage singed but intact – a symbol of the “Nature Boy’s” indomitable spirit and flair for the dramatic. From that day forward, Flair embraced the moniker wholeheartedly, cementing his status as one of the most captivating and influential performers in wrestling history.


Bob Bruggers’ passing at the age of 80 marks the end of an era, but his legacy as an underdog hero and a true survivor will endure forever. From his humble beginnings as an undrafted free agent to his role in the Miami Dolphins’ perfect season and his courageous actions during the 1975 plane crash, Bruggers embodied the qualities that make sports so inspiring – perseverance, selflessness, and an indomitable spirit.

As tributes continue to pour in, fans, former teammates, and those who knew him best have all echoed the same sentiment – Bob Bruggers was the epitome of what it means to be a true hero, both on and off the field. His impact on the lives he touched will resonate for generations to come, a reminder that sometimes the greatest heroes emerge from the most unlikely of places.

So as we bid farewell to this remarkable man, let us honor his memory by sharing our own stories and reflections on the life and legacy of Bob Bruggers – a true underdog whose courage and compassion knew no bounds.

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