Tommy Nobis, “Mr. Falcon,” has died at the age of 74.
Nobis died Wednesday morning at home with his wife at his side, after an extended illness, the Atlanta Falcons confirmed.
Nobis was Atlanta’s No. 1 pick in the NFL draft and No. 5 choice in the AFL in December 1965. He played his college ball at Texas.
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 No. 2 Navy led by Heisman Trophy winner Roger Staubach in the 1964 Cotton Bowl Classic.
As a senior despite being slowed by a knee injury, he won the Outland Trophy for the best lineman in the country and the Maxwell Award for college’s best player.
“Mr. Falcon” played from 1966-76 and was the original face of the franchise.
It did not take long for the Falcons to get their first Pro Bowl selection as Nobis was elected his rookie season after being named Rookie of the Year and setting the unofficial record for most tackles in a season with a staggering and untouchable 294, which still stands today.
Even more impressive, Nobis accomplished that feat in just a 14-game season, meaning he averaged close to 18 tackles a game. In his 11-season career, Nobis made the Pro Bowl five teams and was selected to the NFL’s 1960’s All-decade team. The Falcons franchise was built around Nobis, which led to his nickname “Mr. Falcon.”
Nobis, who spent his entire NFL career bothered by knee injuries, was an inaugural member of the 2004 Falcons Ring of Honor and has his No. 60 jersey retired.
“On behalf of the Atlanta Falcons we extend our deepest sympathies to the family and friends of the great Tommy Nobis,” said Falcons owner Arthur Blank. “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.”
No funeral plans have been announced.