ALTHOUGH TEXAS WENT ON TO LOSE AT ARKANSAS, SPURRING a two-game skid that wiped the Horns out of bowl contention, Nobis's individual success helped put a positive spin on the 1965 season. That year Nobis won the Outland Trophy and the Walter Camp and Maxwell awards while finishing seventh in Heisman voting. The flood of accolades made him the most sought-after college player; he was drafted first overall by the expansion Falcons in the NFL and by the Houston Oilers in the AFL. While Nobis weighed his options, the speculation spilled into outer space. Astronaut Frank Borman relayed a message from aboard Gemini 7: "Tell Nobis to sign with Houston." In the end Nobis went against the astronaut's wishes, opting for a career in the more established NFL. But "to have an individual like that have me on his mind, that's pretty dern special," says Nobis. In Atlanta's inaugural season in 1966, he amassed a team-record 294 tackles and was named to the first of five Pro Bowls.
Nobis, whose Falcons never reached the playoffs in his 11 seasons, had considered going into coaching after retiring in '76. "I talked to a lot of men I really respected--and almost to a man they all talked me out of it," says Nobis, who has remained with the Falcons for 39 of the franchise's 40 years. (He's currently a marketing consultant.) Nobis's charitable endeavors include an eponymous foundation he started in '75 that provides job training to youths and adults with disabilities, and he has received the Joseph P. Kennedy award for his involvement with the Georgia Special Olympics.
The 62-year-old Nobis, who lives in Atlanta with Lynn, his wife of 38 years, didn't see Texas play in person this season, but he has enjoyed its success from afar. "Being an ex-Longhorn player, naturally there's a little extra excitement on my part," Nobis admits. "It makes those days of being on that campus and being involved seem like they weren't that long ago."