As 2019 begins to fade one of the biggest oversights continues in professional football.

It regards Atlanta Falcon legend Tommy Nobis and his non-induction into the Hall of Fame. The fact that Nobis is still not in the NFL’s Hall of Fame takes away some of the legitimacy of it.

The man who will always be known as “Mr. Falcon” has been gone for a couple of years now. While it is possible he could still be inducted at some point, it defies all logic that he was not done so while he was alive. If he ever is inducted, it will really be a symbolic slap in his face to do it after his passing.

We’ve all heard the arguments as to why he’s not in. He played on bad teams. He played for an expansion franchise during a time when that meant the team was going to struggle for years, decades even. Hogwash I say. Nobis is a Hall of Fame player if there ever has been. For the life of me, I cannot understand why he has really not received serious recognition for Hall of Fame status.

Nobis clearly came from a different era in professional football. Players did not make millions of dollars. In many ways, the pro game in the 1960s was merely an extension of the college version. Players often had to take other jobs in the football offseason just to support themselves and their families. Think about that for a minute when compared to today’s professional football player.

Even practices back then were completely different. There was no “taking it easy” during training camp. Those preseason ordeals were brutal and became a survivor of the fittest.

Nobis stood tall for the Falcons on the defensive side of the football for a storied career. He was widely respected for what he accomplished on the field and he continued to be an ambassador for the game after his retirement, continuing to work for the Falcon organization.

In fact, Nobis is also remembered positively for his work off the field. He formed an organization to help people with disabilities gain employment. That organization continues today and you likely have heard radio commercials for it narrated by former Falcons coach Dan Reeves.

Each year when the names of new inductees (and even those nominated) are announced, I hope to hear the name Tommy Nobis. Yet each year passes and his name is seemingly not even part of the conversation.

Of course, many of today’s fans probably don’t know who Tommy Nobis was. Even by the time I became a fan where I understood something about the game, Nobis had retired. However, if you claim to have respect for a sport, then you should know about players like Nobis and understand what an oversight it is for him not to be in the Hall of the Fame.

Playing for a winning team should not be a requirement to make it in. No one is saying those early Atlanta Falcon teams as a whole should be inducted but clearly Nobis has long earned his spot.

As a side note it was noted that Nobis suffered from dementia. His health was no doubt connected to his years of play during a time when player safety was not exactly a premium. When the Falcons were in the now infamous Super Bowl against the New England Patriots, Nobis was not able to recognize that it was his former team.

For the first overall draft pick in the 1966 draft, Nobis will always be “Mr. Falcon” to long-time fans. Whether or not he ever gets his rightful place in the Hall of Fame remains to be seen.

There are other former Falcons who also deserve to be in the Hall of Fame but until Tommy Nobis is inducted the place in Canton, Ohio is somewhat shallow in my opinion.

Perhaps it’s time for the Atlanta Falcons organization to do a little more campaigning for the player who was the first to be issued a uniform in franchise history. They clearly haven’t been doing enough.

While Nobis is the clear oversight in terms of former Atlanta Falcons in the Hall of Fame there are others.

Jeff Van Note, Mike Kenn, Ray Easterling and Bobby Butler also deserve induction. There certainly seems to be a bias when it comes to electing former Falcons to the Hall of Fame. Your guess as to why is as good as mine.

Winder resident Chris Bridges is a former sports editor for the Barrow News-Journal. He is a multi-time winner for sports and column writing from the Georgia Press Association, National Newspaper Association and the Georgia Sports Writers Association. He welcomes feedback about this column at pchrisbridges@gmail.com.

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