Tommy Nobis, Dan Reeves are Pro Football Hall of Fame finalists

Falcons coach Dan Reeves (right) does the "Dirty Bird" with players Jamal Anderson (32) and Ray Buchanan after accepting the NFC trophy In January 1999. (David Tulis/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/TNS)

Credit: TNS

Combined ShapeCaption
Falcons coach Dan Reeves (right) does the "Dirty Bird" with players Jamal Anderson (32) and Ray Buchanan after accepting the NFC trophy In January 1999. (David Tulis/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/TNS)

Credit: TNS

FLOWERY BRANCH — Former Falcons linebacker Tommy Nobis and former coach Dan Reeves were named finalists by the seniors committee and the coaches/contributor committee of the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Wednesday.

Both will receive further consideration for induction in the class of 2023 in August.

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Former Falcons offensive lineman Mike Kenn, wide receiver/returner Billy “White Shoes” Johnson, offensive lineman Chris Hinton, offensive lineman George Kunz and linebacker Clay Matthews were semifinalists but did not advance.

Also, current Falcons President Rich McKay was a semifinalist in the coach/contributor category but did not advance.

>Some contend the Falcons are underrepresented in Canton

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 in Atlanta and was known for the ferocity of his tackling.

In addition to Nobis, Ken Anderson, Maxie Baughan, Randy Gradishar, Chuck Howley, Cecil Isbell, Joe Klecko, Bob Kuechenberg, Eddie Meador, Ken Riley, Sterling Sharpe and Everson Walls were selected as finalists by the seniors committee.

Reeves was the first coach to guide the Falcons to a Super Bowl. Reeves, who coached the Falcons from 1997 to 2003, died Jan. 1 at the age of 77.

Reeves, a native of Rome, appeared in nine Super Bowls as a player (Cowboys), assistant coach (Cowboys) or head coach (Broncos, Falcons). He won two of them: Super Bowl VI as a player and XII as an assistant coach, both with the Cowboys.

In his second season with the Falcons – behind quarterback Chris Chandler, running back Jamal Anderson, defensive end Chuck Smith, linebacker Jessie Tuggle and the rest of the “Dirty Birds” – the team went to the Super Bowl.

Reeves recovered from quadruple-bypass heart surgery along the way.

Reeves finished with a 201-174-2 record as a coach, including 49-59-1 with the Falcons.

In addition to Reeves, the other coach/contributor finalists include Roone Arledge, Don Coryell, Mike Holmgren, Frank “Bucko” Kilroy, Robert Kraft, Art Modell, Buddy Parker, Art Rooney Jr., Mike Shanahan, Clark Shaughnessy and John Wooten.

Each player semifinalist played his last game in professional football no later than the 1996 season.

Separately from the seniors committee is the 12-person coach/contributor committee.

>Falcons CEO Rich McKay makes the Hall of Fame case for Tommy Nobis

The seniors committee will meet Aug. 16 to select up to three seniors for final consideration as members of the class of 2023. Expansion of the seniors pool for election to the Hall was approved earlier this year for the classes of 2023, 2024 and 2025.

>Billy “White Shoes” Johnson – He remains the only man selected to the 75th Anniversary team who is not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.

The coach/contributor committee members will meet Aug. 23 to select one coach or contributor for final consideration for the class of 2023.

Here are short bios on the Falcons who were semifinalists:

Chris Hinton: Guard/tackle (1983-95)

Named to seven Pro Bowls and recognized as a two-time first-team All-Pro, Hinton played with the Baltimore/Indianapolis Colts (1983-89), Falcons (1990-93) and the Minnesota Vikings (1994-95).

Billy “White Shoes” Johnson: Wide receiver/kick returner/punt returner (1974-80, 1982-88)

During his 14-year NFL career (Houston Oilers, 1974-80; Falcons, 1982-87; Washington, 1988), Johnson accumulated three Pro Bowl selections and is most famously known for his end-zone celebrations.

Mike Kenn: Offensive tackle (1978-94)

A former first-round draft pick, this University of Michigan product played his entire 17-year career with the Falcons and racked up five Pro Bowl selections and two first-team All-Pro selections.

George Kunz: Offensive tackle (1969-78, 1980)

One of the premier offensive linemen of his generation. Kunz was named to the Pro Bowl seven times in his career and received three first-team All-Pro honors. He won Offensive Lineman of the Year in back-to-back years (1976, 1977). He played for the Falcons (1969-74) and the Baltimore Colts (1975-80).

Clay Matthews: Linebacker (1978-96)

Matthews made four Pro Bowl appearances for the Cleveland Browns in the 1980s. He led the NFL in forced fumbles in 1983 and earned a place in the Browns’ Ring of Honor. He finished his career with the Falcons, where he became the oldest player to record a sack in NFL history at the age of 40 years, 282 days.

Tommy Nobis: Linebacker (1966-76)

Nobis was the first player the expansion Falcons drafted and played his entire career in Atlanta. He 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.

Rich McKay: General manager, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 1994-2003; general manager, Atlanta Falcons, 2003-08; president/CEO, Atlanta Falcons, 2008-present.

Dan Reeves: Head coach of the Denver Broncos (1981-92), New York Giants (1993-96) and the Atlanta Falcons (1997-2003).

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