Remembering Tommy Nobis


Barbara Wainscott 12/13/2017

My younger daughter texted me this afternoon while I was at Academy doing some Christmas shopping.  It made me so sad.  He was Loyd’s absolute hero and the first name out of his mouth when he was asked who was the best football player he ever saw.  Tommy recruited Loyd and was a big part of the reason he chose to play at Texas.  He respected him both on the field and off.  After Loyd had two of his cancer surgeries and was scheduled for the third, Tommy called him one night as we were about to get out of the car at some friends’ house.  He talked with him for twenty minutes and Loyd was so emotionally touched.  I don’t know what he told him, but I remember the look on his face when he ended the call.  He looked up at me with tears in his eyes and a smile on his face and said,  “He’s really one of the good guys…and he’s my friend.”


Billy Dale 12/14/2017

I wrote most of the article below about Tommy Nobis  in April of 2017.   Someone representing the mayor’s office in  Atlanta Georgia read the article and  asked  if they could  reprint.   I of course said yes with the comment  “ I chose to be  a Longhorn because of Tommy Nobis influence on my life". 

Coach Akers said tradition is  whatever it is that makes you feel bigger than you are and faster than you are." Coach Page the women's basketball coach In 1973 said about traditions "Intangibles Are Necessary.  "It's Character And Pride...................It's The Things That Keeps People Performing When They're Tired.... It Can Be As Important As Money In Building A Program."  Winning close games was great for Longhorn football,  and the Texas iconic helmet became the national symbol of winning the "Longhorn way"- with talent, hard work, character, attitude, grit, backbone, and moxie. Tommy Nobis represents all the qualities of the great teams of the early Royal years.  The "Tommy Nobis effect" on recruiting was  a major reason the Longhorns had great teams from 1968-1974. Impressionable boys entering junior high school and High school in the early 60's wanted to be like Tommy.


Eugene Williams 12-13-2017 comments on a special moment with Tommy Nobis

My heart is sadden at the loss of Lifetime Texas Longhorn and NFL Great Tommy Nobis. RIP#60 My very first radio guest were Tommy and DKR! I knew I had arrived!

Jo Anne Aune  12/13/2017 recalls great memories

You may be too young to remember, but Tommy Nobis, Longhorn all American and # 1 draft pick in 1966 (to Atlanta Falcons) 5 times Pro Bowl, died today at the age of 74.
He was from San Antonio, where he was a football great from Thomas Jefferson High School, my alma mater. His life size picture probably still hangs over the entrance to the TJ locker room.
He was preceded in death by his little brother Joe, who, as a ‘67 Longhorn recruit , with great promise, who tragically drowned in Lake Travis in the Spring of ‘68.
RIP Tommy, you will always be our hero and you are now at peace with Joe. 

Ken Vaughn 12-13-2017 remembers Tommy Nobis

My all-time idol Tommy Nobis has passed. What an outstanding Longhorn. I had the pleasure of visiting with him at Coach Royal's 80th birthday party. When I was 12 we were visiting Austin to buy a boat and there he was... lifting a 100 horsepower motor off the back of a boat at Austin Boats & Motors. My father looked at me and said "that's who you need to be like". He was something special. God bless him and his loved ones.


Transcending Time-Tommy Nobis


Revised  12/16/2017

Tommy Nobis was a Longhorn during Coach Darrell Royal's early years at Texas.  Nobis and his teammates were Longhorn tradition builders. Winning "small" was the rule not the exception from 1958-1964 - but they did win! Winning small was actually good for the Longhorn franchise. Victories in close games enhanced the Longhorn brand and created passionate Longhorn fans. Winning traditions begin with intangibles and these teams were blessed with this asset.


Of course there were many great players during  Royal's early years at Texas that built the Longhorn winning tradition, but for whatever reason -justifiable or not- Tommy Nobis received the most press. 

The "Tommy Nobis effect" on recruiting was  a major reason the Longhorns had great teams from 1968-1974. Impressionable boys entering junior high school and High school in the early 60's wanted to be like Tommy.



There is no better testimonial to the "Nobis effect" on Texas recruiting then the 1967 Longhorn freshman class. This recruiting class which included Tommy Nobis younger brother (Joe) is credited with a 30 game win streak and two National Championship teams.









Joe Nobis was a great football player whose life was cut short by a drowning accident his sophomore year- April 29th, 1968.    




Tommy Nobis inspired young boys to be Longhorns, and he inspired his teammates to work harder and improve their skills.  

Charlie Cravens in 1964 was hired by Coach Royal as the  full-time instructor for the Men’s Physical Training Program for all athletics. Cravens says “Nobis was a great natural athlete, but he was also a really hard worker in the weight room”.*  

* ( It is hard to believe, but in 1963 many Longhorn coach's thought weight lifting was detrimental to developing football player skills and therefore chose not to focus on weight lifting as a primary source of strength and conditioning. ) 

 Tommy Nobis disagreed with the coaches and chose to lift weights.   Charlie Craven’s says that Tommy Nobis is the One player who made a big difference in the acceptance of weight training by both coaches and other players . As Craven recalls, “At that particular time in our history (1963-1964), we were concerned with shoulder and neck injuries and Tommy wanted his neck to be stronger than everyone’s.  According to Craven, they fixed a special station for him so he could specifically train his neck, and, “when the other athletes saw Tommy doing that, and they watched him play, that helped create our interest in strength training a lot.”  



The Substitution rule

Tommy Nobis was on the Longhorn team when the substitution rule was changed to allow platooning, but Royal was  slow to implement this new rule stating "We're Going To Train Them (Players) Both Ways. We'll Specialize Them On Saturday".  



Frank Bedrick




In particular Royal Was Determined To Use Two Of His Best Athletes - Frank Bedrick And Tommy Nobis- Both Ways. 







When a sports writer asked Royal when he was going to fully implement the two platoon system Royal said “when Tommy Nobis graduates.”

Tommy was a starter as  guard on offense and linebacker on defense all three years. Coach Royal Said Tommy Was “The Finest Two-Way Player I Have Ever Seen.”

Nobis acknowledged that Playing Guard Helped The Team, but His First Love Was Playing Linebacker.  Tommy Told Bill Grimes With The AJC Staff That “The Excitement For Me Was Stopping A Guy For No Gain, Or Knocking A Guy To Cause A Fumble."

If you question Coach Royals Hyperbole about Tommy Nobis then consider the following:

  • Wikipedia says that Tommy Nobis is one of college football's all-time greatest linebackers with an average of nearly 20 tackles a game;

  • All State in high school, All American twice at Texas;

  • As a junior in the 1965 Orange Bowl he makes one of the most famous tackles in the game's history. On fourth-and-inches, and clinging to a 21–17 lead, Nobis halts top ranked Alabama and Joe Namath. The famous tackle in the Alabama game starts at the 3:00 minute mark in the link below;

  • Nobis finishes seventh in the Heisman voting;

  • Receives the Outland, Knute Rockne, and Maxwell award winner;

  • He is a 1976 inductee into The Longhorn Hall of Honor;

  • Is selected to the 1869-1969 All-Century team for both Sports Illustrated and the Walter Camp Football foundation;

  • Is selected to the Football News’ All-Time All-America Team;

  • In 1982 is inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. Hall of fame induction link follows ;

  • Nobis is an Inductee into the state of Texas, the state of Georgia, the city of Atlanta, and the city of San Antonio Sports Hall of Fames; 

  • He appears on the front cover of Life Magazine and Sports Illustrated.



  • He is Atlanta’s first-ever draft pick;

  •   1966 NFL Rookie of the Year;

  •   Selected to the pro bowl in 1966,1967,1968, 1970, and 1972;

  • A member of the Atlanta Falcons Ring of Honor; and

  • An All-Decade Selection For The 60’S To The Pro Football Hall Of Fame



Quotes about tommy Nobis

Dolphins running back Larry Csonka: "I'd rather play against Dick Butkus than Nobis."

Cowboys legendary coach Tom Landry: "Nobis was as fast as most backs. In my opinion, he was a super player."

Bears tight end Mike Ditka: "It was not one thing he did, it was everything he did. He was an old-fashioned linebacker. He didn't call attention to himself. He went out and played it."

Former Falcons head coach Dan Reeves: " I feel that Nobis' contributions on the field merit those of the Cowboys Hall of Fame players. Before the days of mass media and cable television, the play of Nobis stood a good chance of being missed due to the Falcons' lack of success during his tenure.

Coach Norm Van Brocklin pointed to Nobis' locker at the Stadium and proclaimed: "There's where our football team dresses."


Tommy Nobis most Important Legacy

To know the Tommy Nobis who transcends time you need to know his Heart. As Mike Hancock from  Nobis Works says "Tommy is a legend on the field and a hero off the field". 

His legacy of the heart begins in 1975 before setting up tax exempt charities was fashionable. Tommy Nobis established an organization to help the underprivileged and disabled acquire working skills. Jeff Van Note paid tribute to Tommy when he said “there is no one in the history of sports in Atlanta that has given more back to the community of Atlanta than Tommy Nobis” and that “he is, by far, the greatest Falcon football player ever”.

Tommy Nobis Is The Founder Of The Tommy Nobis Center. As such, he has  Been Honored With  The Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr  Award For His Support of The Georgia Special Olympics,  as NFL Man of The Year for his "Work From The Heart",  and the 2008 recipient of WXIA-TV Community Service Award for his Outstanding Contribution to the Community.

Tommy Nobis wanted to help people help themselves, and the Tommy Nobis Center is an important step for many to acquire and maintain a job.    He knew there were  many proud individuals who wanted to work, but who were unemployable without some kind of training.  

The Tommy Nobis  Site Is  Http://Nobisworks.Org/

In the 1980's, the Tommy Nobis Center expanded its mission to include employment opportunities, and started a Federal Contracting Division (Nobis Enterprises) Housed In A 52,000 Sq. Ft. Facility In Marietta, Ga.  To support the mission Funds were raised from both the private and public donations. 

In 2006, the Center  concentrated on community based training sites and underwent another name change to  Nobis Works . 

Nobis Works provides training and employment services  at 18 community based locations around Metro Atlanta & the South.

As of 2012 NOBIS WORKS continued to grow. It now includes the  Tommy Nobis Center, Nobis Enterprises, and Business Solutions.  It is Georgia’s second largest nonprofit employer of individuals with disabilities.



After 40 years with the Atlanta organization Tommy retired from football. He is now suffering the consequences  of all the punishing hits he meted out to opposing teams during his college and professional football career.  While his body and his mind struggle to recover from a sport that requires violent contact, his compassionate heart is as strong as a 20 year old Marathon runner.  


As of October 15, 2017 Tommy Nobis continued to keep on giving from the heart, and I pray that the rest of his body and mind recover from the impacts he incurred during his "glory years" as one of the best football players in the history of college and professional sports.     


Billy Dale - proud member of the 1967 Longhorn football recruiting class




Former Teammate Mike Perrin: "Tommy Nobis was an icon not just at The University of Texas, but in all of college football. More than that to me, though, he was a friend. He was a real treasure who personified greatness as a player and a human being. The Longhorn family celebrates his life well lived, even as we grieve his passing."

02/01-2019  I will continue to update this page when I receive more information. You can email your memories of Tommy to me at, and I will post.