We’re in the dead period of football (you can read about how much I hate this period here), and with it we don’t have much to talk about except for some speculation here and there.
I figured this would be a good time to look back on some moments in Falcons history and maybe re-live them while we wait for football to come back.
That idea has given rise to a new series of “Throwback Thursday” articles I’m planning on writing throughout the dead period. Each week, we’ll re-live and discuss a certain moment in this franchise’s 52 year history.
Without further ado, let’s get to it.
Falcons Draft Tommy Nobis in 1966
Falcons players have come and gone throughout the past 52 years, and they’ll continue to come and go for a lot longer, but throughout it all there will only be one “Mr. Falcon.”
The city of Atlanta first started flirting with professional football in 1962, when it hosted a couple of preseason NFL games. In 1964, the city welcomed the AFL for an exhibition match as well.
After the construction of Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium in 1965, different business groups in Atlanta pursued a professional football franchise for the city. After deciding to pursue a future with the NFL (as opposed to the AFL), the city awarded ownership to Rankin Smith Sr.
The now 15th franchise in NFL history was awarded the first pick in the 1966 NFL Draft, and with it, they opted to make Tommy Nobis, out of the University of Texas, the first ever Atlanta Falcon.
Nobis made an impact right away, showcasing himself as the best player on the freshly minted franchise. He earned Pro Bowl honors in each of his first three seasons in the NFL from 1966-1968, playing in all 42 games throughout those three years (the NFL regular season lasted just 14 games back then). He was also a First-Team All-Pro selection in 1967.
The University of Texas alum would go on to make the Pro Bowl two more times in his career, in 1970 and 1972, with injuries robbing him of the opportunity in 1969 and 1971.
Nobis would play 11 seasons in the NFL, all with the Falcons. Unfortunately, the birds never fielded a team around him that was strong enough to make the playoffs, so Mr. Falcon would never experience a postseason game in his career. He would give it his all for Atlanta in 133 career games: recording 12 career interceptions, 13 fumble recoveries and two defensive touchdowns (tackles and forced fumbles weren’t recorded stats at the time).
One of the great honors Nobis received after he retired was being named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame All-1960s team, despite only playing in the latter half of the decade. He should be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame but is constantly overlooked for the honor because he played for a bad Atlanta team, which never received much media exposure throughout the course of his entire career.
Tommy Nobis was inducted into the Atlanta Falcons’ Ring of Honor along with Steve Bartkowski and Jessie Tuggle in the inaugural 2004 class. No other Falcon has ever or will ever wear the number 60 again, which is fitting.
Mr. Nobis spent 40 years with the Falcons’ organization between both his playing days and a front office role. He represented the organization with class and integrity and will forever be remembered as the OG Atlanta Falcon. News of his death this past December rattled the Atlanta Falcons community, but his memory will always live on with us.
Expect these “Throwback Thursday” article to be recurring throughout the offseason, to reminisce on the team’s history and to give us some stuff to talk about. Don’t expect them to go in order, however. The next one could look back on a moment that occurred in the 90s or even a few years ago. Between you and me, I’m just making it up as I go along.