Tommy Nobis was the very first pick in Falcons history. Given the team’s fraught history, you would expect that pick to have not worked out, but Nobis grew into a legitimate legend. He finished his long career with favorable comparisons to Dick Butkus, an obvious spot in the Falcons’ Ring of Honor, and a lifetime of appreciation in NFL circles. It is borderline criminal that he is still not in the Hall of Fame after all these years.
Unfortunately, Nobis died today at the age of 74. It’s both a shock—74 seems young, somehow—and a loss for all of us. Nobis was more than a man and a myth in the league, though, as he went on to be incredibly active in helping kids and adults with disabilities, including many years pouring his time and money into the Georgia Special Olympics. The late, great Atlanta Journal-Constitution columnist Furman Bisher once wrote that Nobis is “a man who lives up to all the ideals I would establish for admission to the Pro Football Hall of Fame,” and the only reason he’s not there is because he played on some truly abysmal football teams.
His #60 jersey has never been worn by anyone but him, and never will be, and he will go down as perhaps the greatest linebacker in team history, no small feat considering this franchise once employed the likes of Keith Brooking and Jessie Tuggle and currently employs aspiring history-maker Deion Jones. He was an NFL great, a Falcons great, and a great man, and the world will is lesser without him in it.
Rest in peace, Mr. Falcon.