ALPHARETTA, Ga. — Three years and 364 days ago. That was when Josh Dobbs stood at the podium at Johns Creek Baptist Church and spoke at his own Alpharetta High School baccalaureate ceremony — he counted.
Of course, much has changed since then. In that span, Dobbs graduated from the University of Tennessee with an aerospace engineering degree. He compiled more than 9,300 total yards and 87 touchdowns as a standout quarterback for the Vols. The Pittsburgh Steelers drafted Dobbs in the fourth round of the 2017 NFL Draft. He ascended to the perch of local hero in his hometown. In fact, the master of ceremonies described him as “The man, the myth, the legend: Josh Dobbs.”
But despite everything that has happened, Dobbs never forgot home. Hours after the NFLPA Rookie Premiere in Los Angeles, Dobbs stopped in Alpharetta to again speak at his high school’s annual baccalaureate ceremony, this time urging 2017 AHS graduates to leave a legacy.
“He was supposed to fly straight to Pittsburgh from Los Angeles,” Dobbs’ mother Stephanie said. “But he wanted to stop here quickly today and speak.”
Dobbs told soon-to-be graduates about three fundamentals of leaving a positive legacy: Having a network of people, staying multidimensional and never letting negativity cloud your ambition.
“I’d like to have a legacy where I left a place a little better than when I arrived,” Dobbs said.
Building at Alpharetta
It’s difficult to leave more of a positive legacy than what Dobbs did at the young school, which was founded in 2004. All it takes is hearing the applause and seeing awestruck expressions from graduates when he was announced to know the impact he had on his town.
Dobbs’ family moved to Alpharetta, a northern suburb of Atlanta, when he was 5, and attended Alpharetta feeder schools for elementary and middle school. After attending private school as a freshman and sophomore, Dobbs took the helm at Alpharetta his final two years in high school.
He rewrote the football record book as a two-time all-state quarterback in the state of Georgia’s biggest classification. A standout two-sport athlete, Dobbs also earned all-region baseball honors and still ranks second in program history with a .470 on-base average. Several Division I baseball programs offered Dobbs a scholarship.
Alpharetta student Reid Schulz was still in middle school when Dobbs graduated.
“I just remember that people looked at him and knew he was going places,” Schulz said. “It’s an unreal experience [to see him drafted], especially considering how many high schools don’t have that. … The community and school as a whole is very proud.”
Alpharetta football coach Jacob Nichols was the offensive coordinator during Dobbs’ senior season. He remembers just how closely the Atlanta suburb watched Dobbs at Tennessee.
“It didn’t take long before he got on the field as a true freshman,” Nichols said. “He’d come back for games every so often. There’d be a long line to take pictures with him — including my mother.
“Everybody, even if they weren’t Tennessee fans before, became that way because of him.”
Throughout the spring, Dobbs commuted between Sarasota, Fla., and Knoxville, Tenn., while finishing up his degree and training for the NFL draft.
Ten days ago, Dobbs graduated from the University of Tennessee. Twelve days before that, the Steelers drafted him. He is the first draft pick in Alpharetta High School history.
“It’s been a whirlwind — home, Tennessee, Pittsburgh and then last week in L.A. at the rookie premiere,” Dobbs said. “It’s cool to be immersed in football, where there’s no school.”
One of Dobbs’ post-draft commitments was at ESPN. Dobbs appeared on Jon Gruden’s Quarterback Camp, where he was “grilled … I mean, interviewed!” Dobbs said, to laughs from the crowd.
But as part of the program, Gruden’s foundation, the Fired Football Coaches Association, donated $5,000 to Alpharetta High School.
“[The donation] means a lot,” Dobbs said. “I remember when Alpharetta was built. I think my graduation was the ninth ever. I thank Coach Gruden and the FFCA for donating that money. It’s definitely an honor.”
Now though, Dobbs’ focus shifts solely to the NFL. He is expected to be a developmental prospect in Pittsburgh behind All-Pro quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, at least for a few years.
“He’s a future Hall of Famer,” Dobbs said. “I obviously want to learn as much as I can. This is an outstanding learning opportunity.”
But while Dobbs is moving on in his football career, you can count on him always remembering his roots.
“It’s always cool to come back because you’re recognized,” Dobbs said. “The same people live in the same houses. You’re able to see a lot of people that you grew up with and a lot of parents. It’s a cool experience.
“I’ll always be a Raider.”