The fact that Tommy Nobis is still not in the NFL’s Hall of Fame takes away some of the legitimacy of it.

The man who is always known as “Mr. Falcon” passed away recently. While it is possible he could still be inducted, it defies all logic that he was not done so while 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. Tommy Nobis is a Hall of Fame player if there ever has been one.

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 survival of the fittest.

Nobis stood tall for the Falcons on the defensive side of the football for a storied career. He is 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.

Each year when the names of new inductees (and even those nominated) were announced, I hoped to hear the name Tommy Nobis. Yet each year would pass and his name was 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 mentioned that Nobis, who was 74, was suffering 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 most recent Super Bowl, Nobis was not able to recognize that it was his former team.

As 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, Jeff Van Note and Bobby Butler the most notable two in my book, but until Tommy Nobis is inducted the place in Canton, Ohio will be 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.

Winder resident Chris Bridges is a former sports editor of the Barrow Journal. He welcomes feedback about this column at

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