Skip to main content

Former Texas, Atlanta Falcons Great Tommy Nobis Had 'Most Severe Form Of CTE'

A general view of fans before a game between the Texas Tech Red Raiders and the Texas Longhorns.

AUSTIN, TX - SEPTEMBER 19: A general view of fans before a game between the Texas Tech Red Raiders and the Texas Longhorns at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium on September 19, 2009 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Tommy Nobis was one of the greatest Texas Longhorns ever, and was nicknamed "Mr. Falcon" for his NFL career.

The late Longhorns great died in late 2017, at 74 years old.

He was an All-American two-way player for UT, playing both linebacker and offensive guard.

In 1965, his senior year, he captured the Outland Trophy, Maxwell Award, and Knute Rockne Memorial Trophy.

He went on to become the No. 1 pick for the expansion Atlanta Falcons, the first pick in franchise history, and went on to make five Pro Bowls and win Rookie of the Year.

Both his alma mater and former NFL home have retired his jersey.

Tommy Nobis' family had his brain tested for CTE, and the results are pretty harrowing.

According to Dr. Ann McKee of the Boston University CTE center, Nobis had extremely advanced brain deterioration.

From the Associated Press:

Dr. Ann McKee, the director of Boston University’s CTE center, said Monday that Nobis had the most severe form of the disease, showing a “severe loss of neurons and large CTE lesions throughout the cerebral cortex.”

His family was not surprised.

“We knew there was going to be something wrong on his pathology report,” said (Nobis' daughter, Devon) Jackoniski, who is a physician assistant. “But it was shocking how a human being could still be alive with that little functioning brain.”

Nobis' daughter says that her father displayed signs of the disease during much of his life, and even shared some cautions about the sport of football late in his life.

“We were pretty uneasy growing up,” she said. “Although my dad had just some beautiful moments of being a wonderful man, emotionally he was so unstable it was just hard to get close to him.”

[...]

“He told me before he became very ill he would never turn his back on football or do anything different. But he would educate kids a little different in the game,” Jackoniski said. “There’s something very wrong with slamming your head against a brick wall over and over and over again.”

It is a sad but unsurprising result of the test, and a sobering reminder of the impact that football can have, days ahead of the Super Bowl.

[Associated Press]