Tommy Nobis was the first overall pick in the 1966 NFL draft and the first ever player on the Atlanta Falcons, an expansion team that year. He went on to win Rookie of the Year, he was a five-time Pro Bowler, he was on the 1960s All-Decade Team, he’s a member of the Falcons’ Ring of Honor and his No. 60 jersey is retired. But there’s one honor that has not been bestowed on Nobis: enshrinement in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Falcons President and CEO Rich McKay said Nobis represents an important part of franchise history, leading the team at a difficult time early in the Falcons’ existence, and has never been properly recognized.
“I got to know Tommy when I first got to Atlanta,” McKay told SI.com. “So I come here, and all of a sudden here’s Tommy Nobis. First pick of the franchise. Best player on a really bad team. Five Pro Bowl appearances in 11 years. Two times All-Pro. And he’s on the all-decade team of the 1960s. So he is recognized as an elite player. But he played with really bad teams . . . and teams that weren’t competitive. And the franchise was never competitive for an awfully long time. So I think he just got lost in the shuffle, and it bothers me because I look at franchise players, and I look at seminal players — meaning the first picks of the franchise, whether it’s Seattle, whether it’s’ Tampa Bay or wherever it may be. But here in Atlanta everybody still refers to Tommy as ‘Mr. Falcon,’ and ‘Mr. Falcon’ is not in the Hall of Fame. It does not make me happy.”
Nobis, who died in 2017, was one of the finalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Centennial class, but was not selected.