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It's Time to Put Nobis in the HOF by Rich Mckay


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Dear Pro Football Hall of Fame voters and football fans everywhere,

I’m writing you today because it is time to do the right thing.

It is time to rightfully acknowledge, appreciate, and celebrate one of the greatest to ever play the game: the late Tommy Nobis. We can – we should – do that by immortalizing Nobis with a bronze bust at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.

And here is why I feel so strongly about it.

For the past 30-plus years, Nobis was affectionately known as “Mr. Falcon” because he was the first player ever selected by the Atlanta Falcons when they made him the No. 1 overall pick in the 1966 NFL Draft and, as importantly, because of everything he brought to the organization on and off the field.

From the minute Nobis stepped onto the field at the old Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, he was a difference-maker. Teams may not have feared the Falcons, but they surely feared playing against Tommy.

After stockpiling a mind-boggling 294 combined tackles during his first season – a mark that still stands as the Falcons’ all-time single-season record and is unofficially the most tackles ever credited to one player in NFL history – Nobis was voted Rookie of the Year and selected to the first of five Pro Bowls in his career.

That’s right, Tommy was selected to the Pro Bowl five of his 11-year career while playing on a non-competitive team.

He went on to lead the Falcons in tackles in nine of his 11 seasons and was named All-Pro twice (first team in 1967 and second team in 1968). Nobis was later named to the NFL’s All-Decade Team for the 1960s. That team, for whatever it’s worth, was selected by Pro Football Hall of Fame voters at the end of the decade.

The Falcons came into the league as an expansion team when Nobis began his career and they achieved at a level that the NFL expansion rules were designed to – they were not competitive for many, many years.

How bad were they? In the 11 seasons Nobis played in Atlanta, the Falcons had just two winning seasons – in 1971 and 1973.

They never made the playoffs.

They played in a baseball stadium.

They were almost never on national TV.

In short, not a whole lot of people saw Nobis and the often overlooked and easily forgettable Falcons play. He was hardly a household name.

I grew up in Los Angeles and barely noticed that the Falcons were in the same division as the Rams back then – and I certainly couldn’t tell you much about Nobis’s career as a Falcon, not until I came to Atlanta and felt his impact on the franchise.

It certainly didn’t help that Nobis played during a time when another linebacker and future Hall of Famer named **** Butkus was starring in Chicago for the Bears.

My NFL life began in 1976 when my Dad, John McKay, came to Tampa to coach the expansion Buccaneers. From that experience, I know how hard it was to succeed with the then NFL expansion rules that the Falcons and Tommy had faced in 1966.

"I'd rather play against **** Butkus than Nobis." – Larry Csonka, former Miami Dolphin and Hall of Famer

Nobis didn’t always play in obscurity; he was the top selection in ’66 – one pick ahead of Michigan guard and future Hall of Famer Tom Mack – for a reason.

A two-way star playing both linebacker and guard at Texas, Nobis is the only college player ever to win both the Outland Trophy (top interior lineman) and Maxwell Trophy (best all-around player) in 1965. Despite finishing seventh in the Heisman Trophy voting that same year, he still managed to garner more votes than Bob Griese and Steve Spurrier.

At a time when college football was more popular than pro football, Nobis was the premiere player on one of the best teams in the land.

How good were those Nobis-led Longhorns? They won the 1963 national championship over Roger Staubach and Navy. And in 1964, then they toppled Joe Namath and Alabama in the Orange Bowl. Those were two pretty good quarterbacks.

And during a time when the internet, cell phones and social media didn’t even exist, Sports Illustrated declared Nobis “The Best Defender in College Football” on its cover on Oct. 18, 1965. LIFE magazine also featured Nobis on its Dec. 10, 1965, cover story about the NFL and the former AFL competing for college stars calling him the “nation’s best defensive college player.”

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Nobis didn’t always play in obscurity; he was the top selection in ’66 – one pick ahead of Michigan guard and future Hall of Famer Tom Mack – for a reason.

A two-way star playing both linebacker and guard at Texas, Nobis is the only college player ever to win both the Outland Trophy (top interior lineman) and Maxwell Trophy (best all-around player) in 1965. Despite finishing seventh in the Heisman Trophy voting that same year, he still managed to garner more votes than Bob Griese and Steve Spurrier.

At a time when college football was more popular than pro football, Nobis was the premiere player on one of the best teams in the land.

– Dan Dierdorf, former St. Louis Cardinal and Hall of Famer

He was a pretty big deal. And when he got to Atlanta, he more than lived up to all of the lofty expectations.

I know, I know – the Pro Football Hall of Fame is about his pro career. The same was true with my Dad’s first pick in Tampa Bay, Lee Roy Selmon in 1976. Lee Roy only played nine years (1976-1984) in the league, but his impact on and off the field in Tampa was enormous. For that, Lee Roy was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1995.

So, let’s make sure we fully appreciate what Tommy accomplished in those 11 years. The thing is, unless you played with Nobis or against him, you couldn’t truly appreciate his greatness.

I haven’t even mentioned the incredible contributions Nobis had off the field with his foundation – The Tommy Nobis Center – that was founded in 1977 to support the community of people with disabilities in the Atlanta area. It started with just three employees and has now helped more than 25,000 people across 24 states. More than 40 years later, the Tommy Nobis Center continues to provide education, training to support those with barriers to find real jobs.

Nobis was an amazing football player and even better human being.

Nobis, whose No. 60 was never worn by another Falcons player and eventually retired by the team, was an inaugural member of the 2004 Falcons Ring of Honor. Not surprisingly, he's also a member of many more honorary teams and hall of fames:

  • College Football Hall of Fame
  • Atlanta Sports Hall of Fame
  • Georgia Sports Hall of Fame
  • San Antonio Sports Hall of Fame
  • State of Texas Hall of Fame
  • Sports Illustrated’s College Football All-Century Team

Tommy Nobis earned the moniker Mr. Falcon. He played every game with everything he had at the highest level.

It’s time to do the right thing.

It’s time to put Tommy Nobis into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Sincerely,
Rich McKay
President and CEO of the Atlanta Falcons

 
Edited by Fiddlin John's Ghost
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I am lucky enough to have seen Nobis play in person. Even as a young kid, his dominance on the field was obvious and apparent.

His off the field accomplishments mirror his on the field ones. He was larger than life, yet humble. He played the game like it should be played, with respect for the game and his opponent.

As Csonka is quoted as saying, he would rather have played against Butkus than Nobis.

It's long past time for Nobis to be in the HOF.

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56 minutes ago, octoslash said:

It's easy to see why a great man like Nobis isn't in the hall...just look at some of the arrogant media sh*theads who do the voting.  

They act like there is no media bias in play here,**** sure know if Nobis played in New York, Dallas or Chicago he would have been in a long time ago.  

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1 hour ago, octoslash said:

It's easy to see why a great man like Nobis isn't in the hall...just look at some of the arrogant media sh*theads who do the voting.  

 

8 minutes ago, putnam6 said:

They act like there is no media bias in play here,**** sure know if Nobis played in New York, Dallas or Chicago he would have been in a long time ago.  

That's the thing about the HOF.  It's nothing but arrogant media poopheads.

That's why Ryan's chances of getting in aren't as solid as some think.  National perception matters.... GREATLY!

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I remember years ago talking with John McClain who was the Titans reporter....I brought up Nobis and wondered why he wasn't in the HOF.  Supposedly, and I can't remember the writer's name, a voter had a personal beef with Nobis and said he would do everything he could to keep Nobis out of the HOF.  So yeah, arrogant media.

Edited by skullkrusher07
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Way past time on Nobis, and way past time for McKay/Blank/Falcons to be doing something about it. With the committees they are on, It’s a travesty they haven’t been more vocal about this omission before now.

I actually got to see him play, best defensive player to ever wear a falcon uniform IMO.  

And yes, I saw Deion too.... 

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15 minutes ago, Vandy said:

Way past time on Nobis. I actually got to see him play, best defensive player to ever wear a falcon uniform IMO.  

And yes, I saw Deion too....

Agreed.

Nobis played in a different era than Deion. It was a different game, it was real football without the flash and fancy. It was a running league then, and Nobis was just as or more dominant against the run than Deion was against the pass. Teams had to gameplan around Nobis vs go through him.

 

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52 minutes ago, skullkrusher07 said:

I remember years ago talking with John McClain who was the Titans reporter....I brought up Nobis and wondered why he wasn't in the HOF.  Supposedly, and I can't remember the writer's name, a voter had a personal beef with Nobis and said he would do everything he could to keep Nobis out of the HOF.  So yeah, arrogant media.

Out of curiosity, was that voter from Texas?  I read Nobis was selected by Houston that year(rookie) in the AFL.

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1 hour ago, Sun Tzu 7 said:

 

That's the thing about the HOF.  It's nothing but arrogant media poopheads.

That's why Ryan's chances of getting in aren't as solid as some think.  National perception matters.... GREATLY!

I don’t think Julio or Ryan(Already MVP) have perception problem like Nobis or other former falcons. The folks who vote for MVP also vote for HOF. Another MVP or SB ring should do it if Ryan continues playing at high level for next 5-6 years. It’s up to Ryan to show on field to get in to HOF.  Now Nobis, Van and Tuggle had big perception problem.

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42 minutes ago, Fiddlin John's Ghost said:

Agreed.

Nobis played in a different era than Deion. It was a different game, it was real football without the flash and fancy. It was a running league then, and Nobis was just as or more dominant against the run than Deion was against the pass. Teams had to gameplan around Nobis vs go through him.

 

Worst thing to ever happen to him was being drafted by falcons. We’re spoiled now with over a decade of being one of best ran organizations in NFL through Blank/TD et al, but back then we were the laughingstock of the league.

Before his knees went out, he was as good if not better than any LBer before or since, including Butkus, Lewis, Singletary et al. He was that ******* good.  

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Just now, falcons007 said:

I don’t think Julio or Ryan(Already MVP) have perception problem like Nobis or other former falcons. The folks who vote for MVP also vote for HOF. Another MVP or SB ring should do it if Ryan continues playing at high level for next 5-6 years. It’s up to Ryan to show on field to get in to HOF.  Now Nobis, Van and Tuggle had big perception problem.

Julio is recognized as one of the best WRs in the NFL.  I think we can agree on that.

Is Ryan recognized as one of the best QBs?  If you google best QBs in the NFL is Ryan consistently in the top 5? No.  Top 10?  Yes  This is Ryan's problem.  Perception.  When the national media thinks of Matt Ryan, right now,  MVP isn't the first thing that comes to mind.  28-3 is.

Let's take last season.  Statistically it was closer to his MVP season but you wouldn't know it if you looked at the Pro Bowl and NFL top 100.  I personally think these are BS popularity contests but that's what HOF voting essentially is.

Now if he ends up with a bunch of records and no ring he has a good shot.  However if he has a ring then I think we agree it's pretty much a lock.

Is Phillip Rivers a HOF QB?  If you say no then the reasons you would have against him would be the same thing for Ryan.  If MVP is part of the consideration is Cam Newton a HOFer?  Again,  these are the things Ryan will have to go against without a Ring. 

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Just now, Sun Tzu 7 said:

Julio is recognized as one of the best WRs in the NFL.  I think we can agree on that.

Is Ryan recognized as one of the best QBs?  If you google best QBs in the NFL is Ryan consistently in the top 5? No.  Top 10?  Yes  This is Ryan's problem.  Perception.  When the national media thinks of Matt Ryan, right now,  MVP isn't the first thing that comes to mind.  28-3 is.

Let's take last season.  Statistically it was closer to his MVP season but you wouldn't know it if you looked at the Pro Bowl and NFL top 100.  I personally think these are BS popularity contests but that's what HOF voting essentially is.

Now if he ends up with a bunch of records and no ring he has a good shot.  However if he has a ring then I think we agree it's pretty much a lock.

Is Phillip Rivers a HOF QB?  If you say no then the reasons you would have against him would be the same thing for Ryan.  If MVP is part of the consideration is Cam Newton a HOFer?  Again,  these are the things Ryan will have to go against without a Ring. 

What Ryan needs to do is capitalize on the seasons he's still playing after Brees, Brady, and Big Ben retire. If he plays 5 years past them and being one of the top 2 or 3 QBs it would help. 

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8 minutes ago, Sun Tzu 7 said:

Julio is recognized as one of the best WRs in the NFL.  I think we can agree on that.

Is Ryan recognized as one of the best QBs?  If you google best QBs in the NFL is Ryan consistently in the top 5? No.  Top 10?  Yes  This is Ryan's problem.  Perception.  When the national media thinks of Matt Ryan, right now,  MVP isn't the first thing that comes to mind.  28-3 is.

Let's take last season.  Statistically it was closer to his MVP season but you wouldn't know it if you looked at the Pro Bowl and NFL top 100.  I personally think these are BS popularity contests but that's what HOF voting essentially is.

Now if he ends up with a bunch of records and no ring he has a good shot.  However if he has a ring then I think we agree it's pretty much a lock.

Is Phillip Rivers a HOF QB?  If you say no then the reasons you would have against him would be the same thing for Ryan.  If MVP is part of the consideration is Cam Newton a HOFer?  Again,  these are the things Ryan will have to go against without a Ring. 

NFL top 100 is garbage. No bloggers  you google won’t vote in NFL HOF. Its same folks who do for MVP and few more. When Ryan ends up in top 5-7 all time QB list for most of stats, the narrative will change. It’s ridiculous to compare how hard it was for Nobis, Tuggle and others to media perception on Ryan. Only thing which will stop Ryan from getting in to HOF is himself.

Its about time we get those former players who had perception problem in to NFL HOF.

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12 minutes ago, falcons007 said:

NFL top 100 is garbage. No bloggers  you google won’t vote in NFL HOF. Its same folks who do for MVP and few more. When Ryan ends up in top 5-7 all time QB list for most of stats, the narrative will change. It’s ridiculous to compare how hard it was for Nobis, Tuggle and others to media perception on Ryan. Only thing which will stop Ryan from getting in to HOF is himself.

Its about time we get those former players who had perception problem in to NFL HOF.

Agree 100%

Yes Ryan has the advantage of playing in the Internet Era where information is much more easily accessible than when the other guys played.

But I think we all agree that Nationally Ryan doesn't get the credit he deserves.

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