1966: Tommy Nobis
The Tommy Nobis era began with the Falcons about this time 50 years ago in a bruising game on Sept. 18 in Philadelphia against the Eagles. The Falcons would lose 23-10 at old Franklin Field where their only touchdown was a 21-yard catch by Alex Hawkins from quarterback Randy Johnson. But Nobis introduced himself to the NFL and while there were no official tackling statistics found for that game, reports had Nobis collecting as many as 15 individual tackles and 25 combined ones against a very good Eagles ground game which included tailback Izzy Lang.
“Back then,’’ said Nobis, “we were an expansion teams and I got a lot of chances to make tackles.’’
Nobis, the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft and No. 5 choice in the AFL in December 1965, would go on and have a sensational first season with what is a team-record 294 combined tackles and is unofficially the most ever by a player in NFL history. He is shown in this photo receiving the NFL Rookie of the Year a trophy and portrait from Phillip Morris Tobacco Company Vice President John Landry.
Nobis would play 11 years in the NFL and many feel like he belongs in Canton in the NFL Hall of Fame. He is the only Falcons player ever to wear No. 60, as the number was the first ever retired by the team. Also, an interesting fact about being drafted by the Houston Oilers of the AFL: Frank Borman, who was an astronaut aboard Gemini 7, sent a message back to Earth to “tell Nobis to sign with Houston.’’ Thankfully, he went with Atlanta.
1972: Larry Campbell
On Sept. 15, 1972, Larry Campbell got his first win of his head coaching career, coming at Lincoln High School where he would stay for 42 years.
The win was a 27-10 beating of Warren County and Lincoln would finish 3-7 that season. From there, Campbell would never have another losing season and in 2013 retired with a record of 477-85-3, 11 state titles and 33 region championships.
Campbell also had eight undefeated seasons and 31 of them with 10 or more wins. His victories are the most ever in the state by a head coach, 125 more than the next coach, Robert Davis, who last coached at Central Macon in 2008. Now 66, Campbell is third on the win list nationally and told the AJC when he retired that “I think age had more to do with the decision than anything. “I still enjoy the game and enjoy coaching and feel that I could continue, but after 44 years in one school system, it’s time. It’s been a good run.’’ The stadium at Lincoln is named after Campbell.
1987: Bobby Ross
In his first season at Georgia Tech, Bobby Ross won his first game, a 51-12 blowout of The Citadel and came back the next week on Sept. 19 to face North Carolina at Bobby Dodd Stadium. The Yellow Jackets pulled out to a three-touchdown lead, but behind Mark Maye’s 406 passing yards and Randy Marriott’ school
single-game record 247 receiving yards, the Tar Heels came back and won 30-23. From there, Tech would lose eight of their last nine games, beating only Indiana State. The Jackets would go 3-8 the next season before Ross had the ship righted and they would win a national championship in 1990.
1993: Greg Maddux
On Sept. 18 as the Braves and Giants were interlocked in a great NL West race, Greg Maddux faced the New York Mets, at the time the worst team in the league. The Braves led 2-0 going into the ninth inning and Maddux got the first two batters of the innings on strikeouts. But he then gave up two straight singles and walked the bases loaded and closer Greg McMichael could not hold the lead as the Mets tied the game and won in 10 innings. But the lost seemed to ignite the team as the next two games against the Mets and Montreal they would combined to score 29 runs to give the Braves a 3 ½ game lead in the division over San Francisco. They would eventually win 104 games, one ahead of the Giants.
2013: Georgia-South Carolina
“Aaron played a pretty good game. He threw it quick and ran it away from me the whole game.’’
South Carolina defensive lineman Jadeveon Clowney on Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray after 11th–ranked Georgia beat the No. 6 Gamecocks on July 7, 2013. Murray threw for 309 yards and four touchdowns and helped change the reputation that he couldn’t win big games. Said Murray, who had come into the game with a 1-6 record against Top 10 teams, on the importance of the game for himself personally, “It was a lot of fun. It’s definitely up there.’’ Clowney, by the way, finished with three tackles and one sack as the Bulldogs beat the Gamecocks for the first time in four seasons.
— Compiled by I.J. Rosenberg