Legendary University of Texas two-way player Tommy Nobis has died at age 74 at his surban Atlanta home.
Nobis was an All-American linebacker for the Longhorns from 1963-65. He also played offensive guard.
In 1966, he was drafted No. 1 overall by the expansion Atlanta Falcons of the NFL and 5th by the AFL’s Houston Oilers. He signed with the Falcons and played 11 seasons in Atlanta before working in their front office for 40 years.
“Aside from his super ability, he’s just one of those trained pigs you love. He’ll laugh and jump right in the slop for you,” Texas coach Darryl Royal told Sports Illustrated’s Dan Jenkins for a cover story on Nobis in October 1965.
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Royal later called Nobis the “finest two-way player I’ve ever seen.”
Nobis was a five-time Pro Bowl selection, two-time All-Pro, and the Defensive Rookie of the Year after collecting a record 294 tackles in 1966. Unofficially, the 294 tackles for Nobis is the most ever in a season by an NFL player.
“On behalf of the Atlanta Falcons we extend our deepest sympathies to the family and friends of the great Tommy Nobis,” Falcons owner Arthur Blank told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “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 born in San Antonio on Sept. 20, 1943, and was an All-State middle linebacker and offensive tackle at San Antonio Jefferson High School.
“We lost a great Longhorn in Tommy Nobis,” former Longhorns coach Mack Brown said as part of a statement released by UT. “When you’re one of the six numbers retired in the long, proud history of Texas Football, your legacy is something special. Coach Royal told me many times that Tommy was one of the best players he had ever coached or seen. He was as physically dominant of a linebacker as the game will ever have. I was so lucky to get to know him and he was truly as special of a person as he was a player. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family. He will be missed.”
His No. 60 jersey was the first number retired by the Falcons and his No. 60 Longhorns’ jersey is one of only six retired by Texas. He is in the Falcons’ Ring of Honor, the Texas Longhorns Hall of Honor, 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.
“It’s a sad day with the passing of Tommy Nobis,” Longhorns head coach Tom Herman said in the school statement. “His accomplishments, memories and legacy are a huge part of our program. He was a National Champion, National Player of the Year, an NFL All-Pro and one of the best linebackers to ever strap on a helmet. The conversation of the greatest players in Texas Football history will always include his name. He is a true Longhorn Legend. His family and friends are in our thoughts and prayers during this difficult time.”