Tommy Nobis, the former Atlanta Falcons football star and co-founder of the vocational training nonprofit Nobis Works, died in his Sandy Springs home on Dec. 12, according to the team.

Nobis, 74, was known to football fans as “Mr. Falcon.” The linebacker was literally the team’s first player, signed to its roster in 1966 after winning a college championship with the Texas Longhorns. On the Falcons, Nobis was named “Rookie of the Year” by the Sporting News and was a five-time Pro Bowl selection.

Lynn and Tommy Nobis make an appearance at the Buckhead 50 Club at the Chastain Park American Legion Post in August 2016. (File/John Ruch)

“On behalf of the Atlanta Falcons, we extend our deepest sympathies to the family and friends of the great Tommy Nobis,” said Arthur M. Blank, the Falcons’ chairman and team owner, in a written statement. “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 made an off-the-field impact with the nonprofit now known as Nobis Works. The Marietta-based nonprofit provides jobs and work training for people with barriers to employment. It especially serves people with disabilities seeking work, and among its prominent local partners is the Kroger grocery store chain.

Nobis and wife Lynn, who is on the Nobis Works board, appeared in Buckhead last year to discuss the nonprofit’s work.

“Tommy instilled his work ethic and drive into our organization, and without his involvement, 25,000 lives of those with physical and developmental disabilities would not have been so positively impacted,” said Nobis Works president and CEO Dave Ward in a written statement. “We are forever in his debt. Tommy’s legacy will live on through Nobis Works as we continue to change the lives of those with disabilities through employment.”

According to the Falcons, Nobis died at home with Lynn Nobis at his side after an “extended illness.”

John Ruch

John Ruch is an Atlanta-based journalist. Previously, he was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.