Photo: Scott Cunningham/Getty Images
ATLANTA - Atlanta Falcons legend Tommy Nobis died Wednesday morning, according to family members.
Nobis, known as "Mr. Falcon", was the first selection in the 1966 NFL Draft, and the first player to join the Falcons as an expansion NFL franchise that year.
Nobis, a linebacker, won the NFL Rookie of the Year award that season. He played 11 seasons in all, leading the Falcons in tackles nine times. Nobis appeared in the NFL Pro Bowl five times and was named All-Pro twice.
His number 60 became the first number to be retired by the Falcons, and he is in the team's Ring of Honor.
Falcons fans have questioned for years why Nobis who was selected for the NFL's All-Decade Team in the 1960s was never inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, even though most experts considered him on par with fellow linebackers and Hall of Famers Ray Nitschke and Dick Butkus.
Nobis enjoyed an equally stellar career as a college football player at the University of Texas. He was the only sophomore starter on the Longhorns 1963 championship team. He was a two-time All-American and was named All-Southwest Conference three times. In his three seasons in college, Nobis averaged almost 20 tackles a game.
Including his playing career, Nobis served the Atlanta Falcons organization in some capacity for 40 years, including time in the team's front office, serving as director of the team's marketing department.
After his playing career, he founded and served on the Board of Directors of the Tommy Nobis Center, which was established in 1976. The Nobis Center works to provide job training and employment opportunities for young people and adults with disabilities.
Tommy Nobis was 74 years old. Funeral arrangements were not immediately available.