Tommy Nobis

Tommy Nobis
Tommy Nobis
No. 60     
Personal information
Date of birth: September 20, 1943 (1943-09-20) (age 68)
San Antonio, Texas
Career information
College: Texas
NFL Draft: 1966 / Round: 1 / Pick: 1
Debuted in 1966 for the Atlanta Falcons
Last played in 1976 for the Atlanta Falcons
Career history
Career highlights and awards


  • 294 tackles as a rookie (1966) [1]
Stats at
College Football Hall of Fame

Thomas Henry Nobis, Jr. (born September 20, 1943 in San Antonio, Texas) is a former American football player. He attended San Antonio Jefferson High School where he was an all-state offensive end and middle linebacker. He played college football for the University of Texas at Austin and professionally, in the National Football League, for the Atlanta Falcons.


College years

Tommy Nobis is one of college football’s all-time greatest linebackers. In his tenure with the Texas Longhorns (1963–1965) he averaged nearly 20 tackles a game and, as the only sophomore starter, was an important participant on the Longhorns’ 1963 National College Football Championship team, which defeated Heisman Trophy winner Roger Staubach in the Cotton Bowl Classic. Nobis was a two time All-American and made the All-Southwest Conference team three times. In the 1965 Orange Bowl, Nobis made one of the most famous tackles in the game’s history. On fourth-and-inches, and clinging to a 21-17 lead, he led his teammates to a game saving halt of top ranked Alabama’s QB Joe Namath. Tommy Nobis was an iron man, playing (and starting) on both defense and offense for his entire college career. Aside from being an All-American linebacker, he also played guard on the offensive side of the ball and was often the primary blocker on touchdown runs.[1] Famed Texas coach Darrell K. Royal called him "the finest two-way player I have ever seen." A knee injury slowed him during the latter part of his senior season, but he still was able to perform at a high level and won a number of major individual awards including the Knute Rockne Award, best lineman, the Outland Trophy, best interior lineman, and the Maxwell Award for college football’s best player. Nobis also finished seventh in the Heisman voting to USC’s Mike Garrett. He appeared on the covers of LIFE, Sports Illustrated and TIME magazines.

NFL career

In 1965, Tommy Nobis became the first player ever drafted by the expansion Atlanta Falcons [1] as well as the second linebacker to be chosen first overall when he was taken with the #1 pick in the 1966 NFL Draft on November 27, 1965. The Houston Oilers also drafted him in the American Football League Draft. This presented a dilemma and also sparked a debate that reached as far as outer space when Frank Borman, an astronaut aboard Gemini 7, talked back to earth with the message, "tell Nobis to sign with Houston." Tommy Nobis instead signed with Atlanta on December 14, 1965 and became the first ever member of the Atlanta Falcons. This culminated in the nickname "Mr. Falcon".[1]

Tommy Nobis joined the Falcons for their inaugural season in 1966. That season he won the league's NFL Rookie of the Year, was voted to the Pro Bowl and amassed an unprecedented 294 combined tackles which still stands today as the team's all-time single-season record,[1] and is unofficially the most tackles ever credited to one player, in a season, in NFL history. In eleven professional seasons he led the Falcons in tackles nine times, went to five Pro Bowls (one in 1972 after two knee surgeries), was named All-Pro twice and was chosen for the NFL's "All-Decade Team" for the 1960s. Miami Dolphins great, running back Larry Csonka commented, "I'd rather play against Dick Butkus than Nobis," and Falcon's coach Norm Van Brocklin once pointed to Nobis' locker and proclaimed, "There's where our football team dresses."

Nobis is a member of the Atlanta Falcons' Ring of Honor and his #60 was the first number retired by the team. No other Falcons player has ever worn the number.[1]

After the NFL

Number 60 is also revered at Texas where it was offered only to the best of linebackers. All American Britt Hager wore #60 during his senior season, as did All American Brian Jones. In 2004, another Longhorn All-American linebacker, Derrick Johnson, decided to wear the jersey in his final collegiate home game to honor Nobis.[2] The number has recently joined Earl Campbell's #20, Bobby Layne's #22, Ricky Williams' #34, Vince Young's #10 and Colt McCoy's #12 as UT's only retired numbers.

Tommy Nobis was inducted into the Texas Longhorn Hall of Honor in 1976. He was named to Sports Illustrated ’s All-Century Team (1869–1969) [1] and is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame, the State of Texas Hall of Fame, the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame, the San Antonio Sports Hall of Fame, and the Atlanta Sports Hall of Fame. In May 2007, he was inducted as a charter member into the Thomas Jefferson High School Alumni Hall of Fame.

Tommy Nobis is currently the Falcons Vice President of Corporate Development and has been a member of the organization, in the front office and on the field, for over 40 years.

Apart from football Nobis is the founder and a Board of Directors member of the Tommy Nobis Center that began in 1975. The center provides youth and adults, with disabilities, job training and employment services. He won the Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. award for his work with the Georgia Special Olympics and has been named the NFL Man of the Year.


External links

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