(WXIA) - Tommy Nobis, known to many longtime football fans as "Mr. Falcon," has died.
Nobis was 74. He passed away at 6 am on Wednesday, according to Dave Ward, president and CEO of the Tommy Nobis Foundation.
According to the Atlanta Falcons, Nobis passed away at his home after an extended illness.
"He was an absolute community champion and a fierce advocate for the disabled," Ward said.
"Tommy Nobis was affectionately known as ‘Mr. Falcon’ for good reason," according to a Falcons statement. "He was selected first overall in the 1966 NFL Draft, making him the very first Atlanta Falcon. Nobis made an immediate impact on the first-year club as he was named Rookie of the Year and voted to the Pro Bowl that season after setting a franchise record with 296 total tackles."
Nobis spent his entire 11-year NFL career in Atlanta, earning five Pro Bowl selections and leading the team in tackles nine times.
Nobis finished second in a 1970 poll conducted by ABC to pick the best athlete of the 1960s. His astronomical 296 total combined tackles as a rookie still stand as the club's all-time single-season record to this day.
Nobis also intercepted 11 passes during his pro career, returning two for touchdowns. During the team’s existence, No. 60 has been worn only by him. He retired in 1976 and was inducted into the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame shortly thereafter in 1983.
In 2004, Nobis joined running back William Andrews, quarterback Steve Bartkowski, and linebacker Jessie Tuggle as an inaugural member of the Falcons Ring of Honor.
“On behalf of the Atlanta Falcons we extend our deepest sympathies to the family and friends of the great Tommy Nobis,” said Arthur Blank, chairman and owner of the team. “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' No. 60 has been retired by the team.
Here are his career highlights:
- NFL Rookie of the Year (1966).
- Five time Pro Bowl selection (1966-68, 1970, 1972).
- Associated Press First-team All-Pro selection (1967).
- Name to the NFL 1960s All-Decade Team.
- Named to Sports Illustrated All-Century Team (1869-1969).
- Falcons record holder for tackles in a single season with 296 (1966).