Each of us has secrets. Some that are just private, little things that we like to keep from everyone else and others might be ones that we’re ashamed of.
The secret that I am prepared to share with you today is of the first variety. In fact, it’s probably not even that big of a secret since I have over two hundred people on my friends list that are in on it as well. You see, I am a fan of Facebook. A good friend of mine put me on to Facebook over a year ago and I must admit that now I am hooked.
It has been a great way to catch up with old high school friends, people that I used to work with, and even an old girl friend from my elementary school days. I’ve joined a group that is comprised of people like me who grew up in Atlanta. We remember the “good old days” when the only way you could get served at the Varsity was to use a carhop. And I’ve even reconnected with some family members that I only see at funerals.
For those of you who know how Facebook works, you post comments about your activities, your achievements, your disappointments, what your children are doing and the things that tick you off and everybody who is listed as your friend can see what you’re doing on Farmville. There’s way too much complaining and griping going on but you fast forward through that junk.
I recently posted a request for ideas for this column. I wanted to see if anybody had a really good subject that I could write about or if there was anything going on in the world of sports that was upsetting them. I got a few good ideas but one really caught my eye. Stephen Weeks suggested a column on Tommy Nobis, The First Falcon, and I totally agree. So, Stephen, thanks for the idea and this one’s especially for you.
Tommy Nobis was a tremendous linebacker for the University of Texas and was a member of their 1963 National Championship team. Texas defeated Heisman Trophy winner, Roger Staubach in the Cotton Bowl to win the championship. Nobis averaged nearly 20 tackles a game as a sophomore that year. Nobis was a two-time All-American and made the All-Southwest Conference team all three years of eligibility. This was in an era when Freshman could not play varsity competition.
Nobis is, perhaps, best known for the crucial tackle he made in the 1965 Orange Bowl. On fourth-and-inches, Texas clung to a 21-17 lead over Alabama with only seconds to go in the game. Alabama, ranked #1 at the time and hoping for another national title themselves, was led by quarterback Joe Willie Namath. Nobis, who, incidentally, played both offense and defense for the Longhorns rose up from his middle linebacker spot and stopped Namath short of the goal line saving the game for Texas.
Nobis was the winner of the Outland Trophy, the Knute Rockne Award and the Maxwell Award recognizing him as college football’s best player. He finished seventh in the Heisman voting, quite high for a lineman and defensive player, to Mike Garrett, a running back from USC.
A few hundred miles to the east of Austin, Texas a new professional team was getting ready to participate in its first draft. The Atlanta Falcons had been awarded a franchise and the city was excited over the prospects of pro football being played there. There was a lot of speculation about who (or should that be whom) the Falcons would select since they had the first overall pick. Did they need a skill player, a running back or quarterback or would they go for defense and select Nobis? Well as we know now, the Falcons did go defense picking Tommy Nobis with that first choice.
It was not a given that Nobis would sign with the Falcons, however. In 1966, there were two leagues, the NFL and the AFL, and the Houston Oilers of the AFL had also chosen Nobis with their first selection. This choice became so heated that Frank Borman, an astronaut aboard Gemini 7 who would later become the Chairman of Eastern Airlines, talked back to earth with the message, “tell Nobis to sign with Houston.” Nobis, however, did sign with Atlanta and on December 14, 1965 became “Mr. Falcon.”
Nobis won the Rookie of the Year Award his first season and would be named to the Pro-Bowl five times in his eleven-year career. Nobis has incredible career statistics but the one that I find most amazing is that in his rookie season Tommy Nobis had 294 tackles. That stands as a Falcon single-season and an NFL single-season record for most tackles. In a 14-game season, which is what the schedule called for that year, that is an average of 21 tackles a game. Nobis’ #60 was the first retired by the Falcons and proudly holds a place of honor in the Falcons’ Ring of Honor.
Now, here comes the most staggering piece of information found in this column. Tommy Nobis is NOT in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. If there is any player more deserving of this honor than Tommy Nobis, I cannot think of who it might be. Larry Csonka, the Hall of Fame running back of the great Miami Dolphins teams, once said that he would rather play against Dick Butkus than Tommy Nobis. Tommy Nobis was the face of those early Atlanta Falcons teams and even though they weren’t very good, you could never tell it from Nobis’ play on the field. Nobis was selected to the All-60’s NFL team in spite of his teams record.
I don’t know where to start or who to talk to but if you are a Falcon fan and believe that Nobis should be in the Hall of Fame, let somebody in authority know. Write your Congressman, call the NFL offices in New York, let your mother-in-law know that you’re upset. Let’s try to right this wrong. Help me make Winder the groundswell community for “Tommy Nobis for the Hall of Fame.”
Randy Blalock is a columnist for the Barrow Journal. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.