Deaths of Note

Published on December 18th, 2017 |


First Atlanta Falcon player drafted, ‘Mr. Falcon’ Tommy Nobis, dies

By John Schaffner

“Mr. Falcon” Tommy Nobis, the hard-nosed linebacker who became the Atlanta Falcons first player ever and a longtime me,mber of the Buckhead 50 Club, has died after an extended illness at the age of 74.

Tommy Nobis, at right, is shown during an August 2016 meeting of the Buckhead 50 Club with his wife Lynn and Dave Ward, president and CEO of Nobis Works.

In the 1966 NFL Draft, Nobis was selected first overall out of the University of Texas by the newly created Falcons franchise. He made an immediate impact in the league, earning Rookie of the Year honors and tallying 296 tackles — which still stands as the club’s single-season record.

In the years that followed, Nobis posted career numbers comparable to his contemporaries like Dick Butkus and Ray Nitschke, because of playing his entire 11-year career for then largely winless Falcons.

Nobis earned five Pro Bowl selections and in 1970, finished second in an ABC poll to pick the best athlete of the 1960s. The team retired Nobis’s No. 60 upon his own retirement in 1976 and in 1983 he was inducted into the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame. In 2004, he joined running back William Andrews, quarterback Steve Bartkowski, and linebacker Jessie Tuggle as an inaugural member of the Falcons Ring of Honor.

In his post-football years, Nobis became as well-known in Atlanta for his philanthropic work as for his play. For more than 40 years, The Tommy Nobis Center — now known officially as Nobis Works — has worked with more than 25,000 people with mental and physical disabilities to help them find and keep meaningful jobs through the center, which is located in Marietta.

In his later years, Nobis had declined mentally, a fact his family ascribes to his years playing football. He was one of more than 250 former players in an NFL program that reimburses its retirees for treatment for cognitive issues like dementia, Parkinson’s and ALS. He also was one of the plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the NFL regarding

Tommy Nobis wearing his number 60 Atlanta Falcons jersey.

damage caused by repeated concussions to players.

Once an attendee at almost every monthly meeting of the Buckhead 50 Club, his attendance had become more sporadic in recent years due to his illness. In 2016 he was featured with his wife Lynn at the club during a presentation about Nobis Works by its President and CEO Dave Ward.

Nobis is survived by Lynn, his three children, Tommy, Kevin and Devon, and eight grandchildren.

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