The album "Tommy" is considered the first rock opera.  The song Pinball Wizard was released on March 7, 1969. 


            Tommy is the name of a rock opera by The Who.  It’s also the name of the Chris Farley character in Tommy Boy,  it was President Jefferson’s moniker, and the proper name for designer’s Hilfiger and Bahama.  You might think of any of those when you hear the name Tommy.  What you won’t think of is the greatest football player of all time.  But maybe you should.

           You won’t think of a player whose number has been retired in the NFL and at the University of Texas where he was almost undoubtedly the greatest defensive player in college football history.   If a linebacker averages 10-11 tackles per game, he is probably a first round pick and an All-American.  Tommy averaged 20.  Nobody has ever been in his area code.  Oh, and he started on offense at Texas too.  He won the Maxwell Award as college football’s top player.  He was a two time All-American who was the youngest starter on the Longhorn’s National Championship team.   He was so good that he made the cover of two of the biggest non-sports magazines in the world, Life and Time, as well as Sports lllustrated.  He’s the only college player in the history of the world to grace those three magazines.  In the 45 years of the NFL Draft, he is one of two linebackers ever drafted with the number one overall pick.  He was also drafted by the Houston Oilers of the AFL.  Frank Borman was orbiting the earth in Gemini 7 in 1966 and radioed back to earth, “Tell Tommy to sign with Houston.”

           As he was in college, so he was in the NFL.  In spite of the compelling request from space, Tommy signed with the expansion Atlanta Falcons and started for them in their inaugural season.  The team posted a 3-11 record under a coach named Norb, but Tommy still won the NFL Rookie of the Year Award in 1966.   While official stats weren’t kept for tackles, his unofficial total was 294 tackles for the 1966 season.  Ray Lewis, who is considered to be the greatest linebacker of the modern era, had a career best tackle total of 184.  That was in a 16 game season.  Tommy played 14.  It’s like when Babe Ruth held the home run record at 50, and second best was 21.  Unlike Ruth whose record has been broken, nobody has ever come close to breaking Tommy's record.   He led the Falcons in tackles for 9 seasons.   Although the Falcons were the laughing stock of the NFL during his career, he was selected to 5 Pro-Bowls and was a 2 time All-Pro. He was named to the 1960’s All-Decade team.  Larry Csonka gave him the greatest compliment a defensive player could receive when he said, “I’d rather play Butkus.”  You can certainly make the argument that he was the greatest football player of all time.  You might lose, but you could make the argument.  Incidentally, he hasn’t been selected to the Pro-Football Hall of Fame.

           Like Tommy, I haven’t been to the Hall of Fame yet.  It’s on my bucket list.  I won’t go until Tommy gets selected, so the voters need to wake from their ridiculous slumber.  Tommy Nobis wasn’t a deaf, dumb and blind kid who could play a mean pinball.  He was big, fast and strong kid who could sure play a mean football.  It’s time for this Tommy to stand like a statue in Canton.