Tommy Nobis

Tommy Nobis was one of the most prolific linebackers in the history of the NFL. Below is a recap of his incredible career and life after football.

Career Recap:

Tommy Nobis

  • Was the first ever player drafted by the Atlanta Falcons organization in the inaugural 1966 season. Tommy quickly became the first ever Falcon voted to the Pro Bowl.
  • "Mr. Falcon" led the team in tackles in nine of his 11 seasons, earning five trips to the Pro Bowl.
  • After his 46th consecutive NFL game, he underwent knee surgery in 1969 and on the other knee in 1971. Known for his toughness, Nobis came back from both surgeries to earn another Pro Bowl spot in 1972.
  • In a poll conducted in 1970 by ABC to pick the best athlete of the decade of the 1960s, running back O.J. Simpson was number one, and Tommy Nobis was number two in the entire country.
  • Tommy had an astronomical 294 total combined tackles as a rookie, still the team's club record.
  • Tommy also intercepted 11 passes during his professional career, returning two for touchdowns, and getting fined $100 each time for throwing the ball into the stands.
  • His uniform #60 was the first one the Falcons ever retired and it's been worn by only him during the team's 45 years.

Awards:

  • Five Pro Bowls: 1966, 1967, 1968, 1970 and 1972.
  • NFL Rookie of the Year in 1966.
  • Voted into the Hall of Fame of the National Collegiate Football Foundation, the State of Texas Hall of Fame and the State of Georgia Hall of Fame.
  • Named to Sports Illustrated's All-Century Team (1869-1969).
  • Won both the Outland and Maxwell Trophy as best college player.

College Career:

  • The most outstanding lineman in college football, he won both the Outland and Maxwell trophies at the University of Texas.
  • He played both ways - offense and defense - his entire collegiate career.
  • He played both offensive guard and linebacker for Darrel Royal on the Texas Longhorns team that won the 1963 national championship over Staubach and Navy. In 1964, the 10-1 Longhorns beat Namath and Alabama in the Orange Bowl.
  • Was a two-time All-American, once as offensive guard and once as linebacker.

Quotes:

  • Dolphins running back Larry Csonka: "I'd rather play against Dick Butkus than Nobis."
  • Cowboys legendary coach Tom Landry: "Nobis was as fast as most backs. In my opinion, he was a super player."
  • Bears tight end Mike Ditka: "It was not one thing he did, it was everything he did. He was an old-fashioned linebacker. He didn't call attention to himself. He went out and played it."
  • Former Falcons head coach Dan Reeves: "As a running back for eight seasons in the NFL, I certainly took my share of hits. Unfortunately I remember some of them, particularly the ones from Falcons linebacker Tommy Nobis. 'Mr. Falcon,' as he is known in this part of the country, should be considered a worthy candidate for the Hall of Fame. I played and coached on some great teams while I was with Dallas. Those teams consisted of Hall of Fame members like Bob Lilly, Roger Staubach and Tom Landry. I feel that Nobis' contributions on the field merit those of the Cowboys Hall of Fame players. Before the days of mass media and cable television, the play of Nobis stood a good chance of being missed due to the Falcons' lack of success during his tenure. I think we need to count on the members of the media to help keep his legacy alive and teach our younger fans of his playing days. If you talk to the players of his era, they will certainly name Nobis as one of the game's most fierce competitors."
  • AJC Columnist and Hall of Fame Voter Furman Bisher: "There isn't much more one can say about Tommy Nobis. In the glow of a winning team, where he would have been a star on the isolated camera, he would already have been residing in Canton. It's not a Falcons thing, it's a Nobis thing, and here is a man who lives up to all the ideals I would establish for admission to the Pro Football Hall of Fame."

Tommy off the Field:

  • Member of the front office for more than 30 years following an 11-year playing career.
  • Founder and volunteer board member of Nobis Works (formerly Tommy Nobis Center) that began in 1977 to provide vocational training to persons with disabilities. That has grown from operating out of a trailer into a 52,000 sq. ft. state-of-the-art center in Marietta with an $11M annual operating budget.
  • Won Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. award for working with the Georgia Special Olympics.
  • Was NFL Man of the Year winner (Dodge and Vitalis)
  • 2008 Recipent of WXIA-TV Community Service Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Community.

Personal:

  • Born September 20, 1943 in San Antonio, Texas.
  • As a high school sophomore, he was a 150-pound QB who didn't letter. As a junior, he earned his first letter as a 185-pound LB.
  • He and his wife, Lynn, have three children: Tommy, III, Kevin and Devon and have lived in Atlanta since 1966.
  • He has two daughters-in-law (Mindi and Mandi) and six grandchildren.

Nobis' Notebook:

  • The red-headed Nobis was so popular in college, he was on the covers of both Sports Illustrated magazine on October 18, 1965 and Life magazine on December 10, 1965.
  • He was recruited by the Falcons of the NFL and the Oilers of the AFL in a "war" that saw an astronaut (Frank Borman of Gemini 7) actually talk back to earth from space to "tell Nobis to sign with Houston."
  • Tommy took time to visit the troops in Vietnam in the late 1960s during the war through the USO tours sponsored by the NFL, one of the most memorable trips of his life.
  • Coach Norm Van Brocklin pointed to Nobis' locker at the Stadium and proclaimed: "There's where our football team dresses." NFL players league-wide respected Nobis' efforts and abilities.
  • One of his most exciting games as a Falcon came on Monday Night Football in 1973 when the Falcons (then 6-3) faced the 9-0 Minnesota Vikings of Fran Tarkenton at Atlanta Fulton-County Stadium. "I got goose bumps coming out of the tunnel. That was the loudest and wildest crowd I'd ever seen." The Falcons responded with a 20-14 upset with Nobis making a fumble-producing tackle to save the win en route to the Falcons' first winning season.