Where are they now: Tommy Nobis

Ken Crippen talks with "Mr. Falcon." Ken Crippen

Print This January 01, 2014, 12:00 PM EST

After scouting for the Falcons, Nobis moved into the marketing department. “There is a real marketing effort that each team does in selling their logo and their identity. Teams that win, obviously, have an easier time with selling that relationship. At the time, going out and selling the Falcons was tough. But, it was the NFL and it was a way for the businesses in the Atlanta area to become associated with the team. There were some people, win or lose, that were true Falcons fans. A lot of those fans were business people. Thank goodness, because it made my job a lot easier.”

After marketing, Nobis moved into the pro scouting department. He recalled, “That was where we were dedicated to scouting players on the other NFL teams. There would be time when teams would cut a player or teams would try to trade a player, and you would need information if your team was going to get involved. I was one of the people in our organization and did that for a couple of years. That was a real good challenge.”

Currently, Nobis has no official role with the organization. “I have been a season ticket holder, and certainly a Falcon fan. There are times that I will do something for the franchise and there are times that the franchise will do something for me. We still have a relationship, but it is more like a friendship. I am still a big Falcon fan.”

Nobis had always been active in the community, including during his playing days with the Falcons. In the mid-1970s, he started the Tommy Nobis Center, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing job training, as well as vocational and employment support for people with disabilities. The Center is now called Nobis Works. According to Nobis, “Nobis Works is strictly non-profit. I never took a salary from them. I was a volunteer and worked in a non-profit, but it was a real profit for me by helping people who needed help. Most of these people were young, and in a lot of cases school-aged.” He continued, “The big thing with a non-profit is to have a need that is truly there and is really a need. The need was that there are people that wanted to work, but they couldn’t get a job unless they had some kind of training. It just all made sense. You take a young man or young lady out of high school, and they are not quite ready on their own to go out and get a job or hold a job without some additional employment-type training. That is what the center was. We were that step that they could take that would help them go out and get a job and keep a job.”

He was also heavily involved with the Georgia Special Olympics. “For years, I was on the board and had the title of State Coach. The Special Olympics is what got me involved with young people that needed help in some way. The Special Olympics is a recreational organization for people with disabilities, and I can certainly relate to that because recreation was a big part of my life with sports. I saw what it could do for me, and here you had people who needed opportunities to have recreation and in a lot of cases, were not getting it. That is why I got involved and I saw the good things that could come out of it. The principles of having a good team. If you follow those principles and are a good team player, then more than likely, you will be able to go out in your own life and take care of things that are required of you to be successful.” His work with the organization earned him the Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. Award.

When asked if he thought that he would ever be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, he joked, “If you have got a vote, I would appreciate it.” He continued, “That is not a mystery to me. I see people that are inducted annually. In most cases, I feel that it is well deserved. You think about the number of men that played the game, and the number of men that had outstanding careers, and the number of men that really deserve that kind of recognition and haven’t received it, there are a lot of guys out there. I may be one of them, depending on what you think of my abilities and what I did. I may not be one of those. The fact that you asked that question, it is important to me and the NFL was a big part of my life. If somebody wants to recognize me for having that type of commitment, it would certainly make me feel good. You don’t always have to receive a paycheck or receive a gift, but recognition of some sort is very meaningful. I find that to be more meaningful to me than putting a dollar in the bank or whatever.”

In 2005, Nobis was inducted into the Professional Football Researchers Association’s (PFRA) Hall of Very Good. The Hall of Very Good is the PFRA’s way of honoring players who have had excellent careers, but are not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. When the topic of the Hall of Very Good came up and this author mentioned that the Professional Football Researchers Association felt that his career was worthy of recognition, Nobis responded, “That type of statement is certainly very, very meaningful to me.” He continued, ‘To hear that the people of the organization think enough about me to voice the opinion that you voiced, I feel very good about that. That is what keeps me ticking. I know where I have been and I know what I have done. If other people want to recognize me for that, then I am very grateful and thankful.”

When asked what he is doing now, he joked, “Talking to you on the phone.” He continued, “It is interesting that you ask that. From time to time, I have different projects that I get involved with. Most of them are non-profit. I have friends that have different things that they are involved in. Most of my friends have helped me over the years, so I try to help them. But, I do not have to look too far to get involved with things.”

Nobis currently enjoys retirement in Georgia with his wife Lynn.

• Atlanta Falcons (1966-76)

• NFL Rookie of the Year (1966)
• Named to the Pro Bowl (1966, 1967, 1968, 1970, 1972)
• Inducted into the Texas Longhorn Hall of Honor (1976)
• Named to Sports Illustrated’s All-Century Team (1869-1969)
• Named to the Football News’ All-Time All-America Team
• Named to the Walter Camp Football Foundation All-Century Team
• Inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame (1981)
• Inducted into the State of Texas Sports Hall of Fame
• Inducted into the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame (1983)
• Inducted into the San Antonio Sports Hall of Fame (1995)
• Inducted into the Atlanta Sports Hall of Fame
• Inducted into the Atlanta Falcons Ring of Honor (2004)
• Inducted into the Professional Football Researchers Association’s Hall of Very Good (2005)
• Inducted into the Thomas Jefferson High School Alumni Hall of Fame (2007)
• Named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s All-Decade Team of the 1960s

Ken Crippen is the former executive director of the Professional Football Researchers Association. He has researched and written about pro football history for over two decades. He won the Pro Football Writers of America’s Dick Connor Writing Award for Feature Writing and was named the Ralph Hay Award winner by the Professional Football Researchers Association for lifetime achievement on pro football history.

Follow Ken on Twitter @KenCrippen

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