On Wednesday morning, the Pro Football Hall of Fame revealed the inductees for the Hall of Fame’s 2020 Centennial Class. This class, unlike the normal annual Pro Football Hall of Fame class, would focus on players, coaches and contributors who may have fallen through the cracks on the road to Canton.
One such name who was among the 20 player finalists was “Mr. Falcon” Tommy Nobis. Unfortunately, the voters decided to snub Nobis again this year, which has itself become a yearly tradition. Already enshrined in Canton, Ohio, is former Atlanta Falcons defensive end Claude Humphrey. I had the unique opportunity to speak with Mr. Humphrey and get his thoughts on Nobis as a teammate and the possibility that Nobis may one day join him in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
“I think he was just as good as some of the guys who are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame right now,” Humphrey said. “I don’t know how, other than the fact that he played during the time of those guys like Ray Nitschke and Dick Butkus, who played on better overall football teams than Tommy Nobis. But as far as comparing talent, I don’t see a whole lot of difference between his talent and the talent of some of those guys who are already in.”
Claude Humphrey and Tommy Nobis played alongside each other in Atlanta for nearly a decade. Humphrey shed some light on how Nobis was as a teammate.
“He was a great teammate, he was a great teammate. Tommy Nobis was one of those kind of guys who took a few minutes to get to know him,” Humphrey said. “You had to really sit down and understand the type of person he was and the kind of background he had. But surely as far as a teammate, and not making this a personal thing, but just as a teammate, there wasn’t anybody better than Tommy Nobis.”
Claude Humphrey was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2014, and has some insight into being a part of the immortal brotherhood.
“Life took a sudden change once I made the Hall of Fame. Beforehand, because it took so long, I always thought of myself as probably one of the better players who never made the Hall of Fame. And then when I made it, I was really happy to be able to drop that excerpt and move on to now ‘I’m a Pro Football Hall of Famer,’” Humphrey said. “I’m just excited about it, still excited as if I was going in today. It’s a great feeling, it’s a whole other football team that you become a member of once you get into the Hall of Fame — it’s a whole other class. But I enjoy it, and love working with the guys and getting a chance to do some of the things I’ve gotten the chance to do.”
Sadly, Tommy Nobis passed away in December of 2017. Humphrey shared with me what advice he would’ve given Nobis for his induction ceremony.
“Well, first of all I’d tell him to just get up there and just be himself. Just be Tommy Nobis, and tell what he wanted to tell, the way he wanted to. And don’t be influenced with peer pressure, because there’s a lot of that in that. So just get up there and be himself, and talk about the things he wants to talk about – and move on to the next level,” Humphrey said.
If you were to build a Mount Rushmore of Atlanta Falcons legends, it would surely include both Claude Humphrey and Tommy Nobis. Both players were first-round selections by the franchise, and although they didn’t play on the most talented of teams, they both excelled every time they stepped on the gridiron.
Humphrey retired from the NFL in 1981, a year before sacks were recorded as an official statistic, with an unofficial total of 126.5 sacks. He was a revolutionary pass rusher who helped pave the way for legendary players such as Bruce Smith and Reggie White. There isn’t much more to say for Nobis. He had a Pro Football Hall of Fame-worthy career, and displayed the ideals, in my opinion, of someone who belongs in Canton.
Both players are in the Falcons’ Ring of Honor, and both men deserve to be forever enshrined in Canton together and tell the story of football’s past and share their accomplishments with generations of fans to come. Claude Humphrey’s already there, hopefully Tommy Nobis will join him in the near future.