Tommy Nobis not chosen as a finalist for Pro Football Hall of Fame class of 2023

Former Falcons linebacker Tommy Nobis, who was one of the 12 finalists, was not selected to advance to be considered for the Pro Football Hall of Fame class of 2023 by the seniors committee Tuesday.

Safety Ken Riley, linebacker Chuck Howley and defensive lineman Joe Klecko emerged and remain under consideration as finalists for next year’s class of enshrinees. That list at one point numbered 127 former players whose careers ended no later than the 1996 season.

Nobis, who died in December 2017, was the first draft pick of the expansion Falcons in 1966 out of Texas. He played with abandon for 11 seasons for the Falcons and was known for the ferocity of his tackling.

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Nobis won NFL Rookie of the Year, played in five Pro Bowls, was selected first-team All-Pro (1967) and is a member of the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 1960s.

Nobis averaged almost 18 tackles per game his rookie season. He had 294 tackles as a rookie, the most credited to one player in an NFL season.

In addition to Nobis, Ken Anderson, former Georgia Tech linebacker Maxie Baughan, Randy Gradishar, Cecil Isbell, Bob Kuechenberg, Eddie Meador, Sterling Sharpe and Everson Walls did not advance.

Nobis likely will continue to receive consideration after the expansion of the seniors pool for election to the Hall was approved earlier this year for the classes of 2023, 2024 and 2025.

Former Falcons coach Dan Reeves is a finalist for the coach/contributor committee, which is set to meet next Tuesday to select one coach or contributor for final consideration for the class of 2023.

Riley, Howley and Klecko will be considered by the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s full 49-person selection committee early next year as part of the selection process for the class of 2023.

Riley played quarterback at Florida A&M, but was moved to safety in the NFL and intercepted four passes as a rookie.

He had at least one interception each season, finishing with 65 for his career – tied for the fifth-highest total in NFL history and second to Dick “Night Train” Lane’s 68 for defensive backs who played exclusively at corner.

Riley played in 207 games and remained productive in his final season, with eight interceptions, including two that he returned for touchdowns. He earned a spot on the AP All-Pro first-team.

Several of the 12 remaining candidates for the 2023 class discussed have been eligible for the Hall of Fame for more than 40 years, including Howley, who first played in the NFL in 1958.

Howley is the only person chosen as MVP of a Super Bowl from the losing team, winning the award following the Cowboys’ 16-13 loss to the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl V. In that game, Howley intercepted two passes. He also intercepted a pass and recovered a fumble in Super Bowl VI as the Cowboys defeated the Miami Dolphins 24-3.

He was named first-team All-Pro five times and selected to six Pro Bowls.

Klecko played along the defensive line for the New York Jets (1977-87) and Indianapolis Colts (1988) and was selected to at least one Pro Bowl at each spot. He was a member of the “New York Sack Exchange” teams, making four Pro Bowls overall and earning two first-team All-Pro honors – once at defensive end and once at nose guard – in his 12-year NFL career.

In one of those All-Pro seasons (1981), Klecko (at defensive end) recorded 20.5 sacks and finished second in the AP’s Defensive Player of the Year voting. He totaled 78 sacks in his career.

“You made my day; that’s for sure,” said Klecko, now 68 and eligible for 30 years, said in a congratulatory phone call from Jim Porter, president of the Hall of Fame. “I’ve had too many of them ‘no’ phone calls, and to get this one with a ‘yes’ is just absolutely exciting. … It’s a great time in the Klecko house.”

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