FLOWERY BRANCH —
Former Falcons great Tommy Nobis, who died in December 2017, could have a shot at induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame after all.
The Hall of Fame is making plans for a 2020 Centennial Class that will include 20 inductees, including 10 seniors, five modern era candidates, three contributors and two coaches. The selections are subject to approval by the hall’s board of directors when it meets Aug. 2.
The hall has not stated how or when this class will be chosen. There will be a blue-ribbon panel, according to Clark Judge of the Talk of Fame Network. It’s unclear who will be on the panel and how it will be selected.
The hall has a proposal to reduce the excess of qualified senior candidates waiting to be enshrined and some will gain entry along with the NFL’s celebration of its 100th anniversary.
Judge polled nine members of the standing seniors’ committee, which may or may not be involved in selecting the Centennial class, and Nobis was in the group of players believed to be most deserving.
Some of the others include Duke Slater and Maxie Baughan as the top two candidates. They were followed by Alex Karras, Cliff Branch and Ken Riley not far behind. Others like Nobis, Drew Pearson, Al Wistert, Randy Gradishar, Mike Curtis, Jimbo Covert, Joe Klecko, Chuck Howley and Cliff Harris were mentioned.
Nobis is widely considered one of the top middle linebackers not in the hall of fame.
NFL.com named Nobis in March 2018 as the top Falcon not in the hall of fame.
Other Falcons have been hurt in the voting process by the team’s lack of success early on.
It took the Falcons six years to post a winning season, 13 years to make the playoffs and 15 years to win a division title. The team went to its first Super Bowl after the 1998 season and returned after the 2016 season.
The Falcons lost both Super Bowls, including an historic collapse after leading New England, 28-3, in Super Bowl LI.
Nobis was the first overall pick of the 1966 draft and set a league record with his 294 tackles. He was named the NFL defensive rookie of the year.
Nobis played 11 years and went to five Pro Bowls. He was an all-decade selection in the 1960s, joining fellow middle backers Dick Butkus and Ray Nitschke, both of whom were first-ballot Hall of Famers.
Nobis isn’t the only Falcon that’s been shunned by the hall of fame voters, according to Rick Gosselin of the Talk of Fame Network.
“Some of the NFL’s finest offensive line play was on display in Atlanta for a span of 26 consecutive seasons from 1969 through 1994,” Gosselin wrote in a 2016 article. “George Kunz was a right tackle who played the position at an elite level. So did Jeff Van Note at center, Mike Kenn at left tackle and Bill Fralic at right guard.”
He noted that those player were recognized for their fine play during their careers, but not in retirement. He noted that none of the former Falcons have been a hall-of-fame finalist, and only Kenn has been a semifinalist.
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