As part of the NFL's Legends initiative, former Atlanta Falcons players had an opportunity to attend a reception before the Thursday Night Football game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Earlier in the season, as part of the NFL's Legends initiative, former Atlanta Falcons players had an opportunity to reunite at a reception, before the Thursday Night Football game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The anticipated reunion provided us a chance to catch up with some of the greatest players in franchise history, including "Mr. Falcon" Tommy Nobis.
There are a lot of popular players in the proud history of the Atlanta Falcons, but only one can be drafted first — linebacker Tommy Nobis. The Texas linebacker was the most coveted player in the nation and later became Atlanta's first-ever player drafted for the inaugural 1966 season.
Nobis didn't disappoint team founder Rankin M. Smith, becoming the first-ever Falcons player to be voted to the Pro Bowl as a rookie, later named NFL Rookie of the Year for his efforts. He earned Pro Bowl honors five times in his 11-year career.
During an ABC poll conducted in 1970, Nobis was voted the second-best player of the 1960s, behind running back O.J. Simpson. Great collegiate success and a paramount rookie campaign, however, were not his proudest achievements in his playing career.
"A lot of people said I wouldn’t last," Nobis said. "I played 11 years. That was my biggest accomplishment. To make it in the league, be on the team, and be a part of the organization."
While playing for the Falcons organization, totaling 296 combined tackles in his rookie campaign remains the club's all-time single-season record. When he called it a career in 1976, the Falcons retired his No. 60 jersey, honoring the remarkable legacy Nobis left behind, filled with lifelong memories.
"My favorite memories were a couple of interceptions and fumbles along the way," Nobis said. "I did get one interception where I returned it for a touchdown. I just barely made it across the end zone; I was about out of gas. It was 47 yards against the Minnesota Vikings. Any time a defensive player scores a touchdown, it’s big-time."
Upon retiring from the league, Nobis worked in sales and marketing, including sporting goods sales. "Mr. Falcon" laughingly admitted that his biggest obstacle in selling was getting too involved talking with a potential client about football and not being as focused on executing the sale. Currently retired, the 71-year-old Nobis says there is still a lot of things to keep him busy.
"My wife’s got me busy around the house, too busy" Nobis said. "I've even learned how to work the oven and do a little cooking."