Friends, foes react to the death of ‘Mr. Falcon’ Tommy Nobis

Tommy Nobis, the first player drafted in Atlanta Falcons franchise history, died Wednesday at the age of 74.

Tommy Nobis, the first player drafted in Atlanta Falcons franchise history, died Wednesday at the age of 74.

For a franchise that has been in existence for more than 50 years, there was only one player who personified the title ‘Mr. Falcon’ - former linebacker Tommy Nobis.

“He was the original Falcon,” former Falcon Harmon Wages said of Nobis, the first player selected in Falcons franchise history who died Wednesday at the age of 74.

Photos of the first FalconTommy Nobis

“On behalf of the Atlanta Falcons we extend our deepest sympathies to the family and friends of the great Tommy Nobis,” Falcons owner Arthur M. Blank said in a statement released by the team. “Tommy’s legacy began as the first Falcons player in team history was built over 40 years with the organization and will live on for years to come in our Ring of Honor.

‘Mr. Falcon’ is rightfully beloved by generations of Falcons fans and we will always be grateful for his many contributions to our team and community.”

Nobis was on the inaugural 1966 season and quickly became the face of the franchise. He was named NFL rookie of the year and was named to the Pro Bowl, the first of five Pro Bowl selections during his 11-year career.

Nobis’ No. 60 jersey hasn’t been worn by any Falcon since his retirement in 1976. He was inducted into the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame in 1983 and was a member of the Falcons’ inaugural Ring of Honor class in 2004.

In 1975, he founded the Tommy Nobis Center, which provides job training and youth services for both youth and adults with disabilities. For his work with the Georgia Special Olympics, he won the Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. award and has been named the NFL Man of the Year.

Here’s what others had to say about Nobis for a series on the Top 50 Falcons that was published in 2016 in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

Former All-Pro Falcons offensive tackle George Kunz on Nobis: "If you are going to start a franchise, you are going to start with a defense And if you are going to start with a defense, you are going to start with a signal caller and Tommy was all of that. Tommy is the epitome of the type of person a franchise could build on.I do not know if you can actually give anybody a bigger compliment than that." (AJC)

AJC columnist Furman Bisher on Nobis: "There isn't much more one can say about Tommy Nobis. In the glow of a winning team, where he would have been a star on the isolated camera, he would already have been residing in Canton. It's not a Falcons thing, it's a Nobis thing, and here is a man who lives up to all the ideals I would establish for admission to the Pro Football Hall of Fame."

Nobis on his playing career: "I feel fortunate to have played 11 years and to have played as hard as I think I did. I did play hard. There were a lot of collisions. I remember a lot of good feelings bringing a guy down with a good hit." (AJC)

Dolphins great Larry Csonka on Nobis: "I'd rather play against Dick Butkus than Nobis," (Sports Illustrated)