BRADENTON, Fla. — Watching Tennessee football last season was like watching Houdini. The Vols would bury themselves in ugly circumstances and then climb out with dramatic flair.
There was a fortuitous fumble recovery against Appalachian State. A 14-point comeback versus Virginia Tech. A 21-point comeback against Florida. A successful Hail Mary at Georgia. An impossible forced fumble at Texas A&M.
Quarterback Josh Dobbs was a constant presence in those amazing events.
And, yes, Dobbs noticed that Tennessee had seriously good fourth-quarter fortune last fall. But when he spoke to SEC Country at IMG Academy last week, he hesitated to call those moments lucky or the result of a higher power’s intervention.
“Of course, I’m a spiritual guy, but in the game of football, it rewards those who play hard and hustle and are competitive,” Dobbs said. “That’s the definition of our team. We played to the end each game, whether we were on the good end or the bad end. Those are the kind of plays that are going to happen, where guys are fighting until there’s no more time left on the clock.”
We spent a full day watching the former Vols quarterback prepare for the NFL scouting combine. Among the highlights: a wild golf-cart ride, an intense mock interview and some drone activity.
Here are other notes from our time with Dobbs at IMG.
- Dobbs was a big Atlanta Falcons fan until high school, at which point he claims he became a “fan of the game” instead of a particular NFL team. He was at the Georgia Dome for Matt Ryan’s first career touchdown pass in 2008.
- He has been a Peyton Manning supporter since attending the Manning Passing Academy as a middle school player, and he recently called Manning the greatest quarterback of all time. When asked whether Tom Brady’s most recent Super Bowl win changed that conclusion, however, Dobbs was not willing to declare a winner. “They’re both all-time greats,” he said. “Peyton’s been the league MVP five times. Tom Brady has five Super Bowls. The argument kind of goes both ways.”
- When his football career ends, Dobbs wants to build and design airplanes for a major manufacturer. His ultimate goal is to be an owner, CEO or both. He said his experience at Pratt & Whitney helped him develop into a CEO of sorts for the Tennessee football program. Dobbs majored in aerospace engineering at Tennessee.
- He doesn’t have a favorite name for his successful Hail Mary versus Georgia (popular option: “The Dobbs-Nail Boot”). “I’ve heard it all,” he said. “They’re all cool.”
- Here’s the moment that’s stuck with him from that day in Athens: “In my mind, I can still see when (Jauan Jennings’) hands came up and caught the ball. And then looking to the sideline and seeing the team rush the field.”
- It sounds as if Jalen Hurd’s midseason transfer caught Dobbs and his teammates by surprise. “It all happened so fast,” Dobbs said. “When it happened, the echo to the team was just focus on what we can control. If he’s not gonna be with us, that’s fine. We have a season to finish out. We have a game to play next week, and the team that’s coming to play us, they don’t really care about what’s going on.”
- Dobbs stands by coach Butch Jones’ “Championship of Life” speech. “I know where coach Jones is coming from. … His basic sentiment is, of course, people are going to remember wins and losses, but at the end of the day, in 40 years, they’re not gonna remember what the exact score of the game was or how many yards you threw for. But they will remember what type of person you were and what type of character you had and how you carried yourself on and off the field and what type of competitor you were. That’s what he’s getting at. In order to build a program of high character and of competitiveness, you need players that exemplify that; that take care of business, not only on the field but off the field — in the classroom, in the community — hold themselves to a high standard and then are also competitors on the field.”
- Volunteers supporters who are upset with the direction of the program need to get some perspective. “Fans are oblivious to some things. You have to take their opinion with a grain of salt. I definitely enjoyed being coached by coach Jones, and the impact he was able to have on me, and the passion that he brings every day to the game of football and the program at the University of Tennessee.”
Check out some of Dobbs’ pre-combine workout below.
Dobbs is among SEC players taking part in the 2017 NFL Scouting Combine. The annual spectacle includes weighing, measuring, poking, prodding, testing and interviewing former college football players headed for the 2017 NFL Draft. The combine runs through March 7. Dobbs and his cohorts await the NFL draft, which begins April 27.