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VOL. 42 | NO. 23 | Friday, June 8, 2018

Dobbs gives back to family that embraced him

By Rhiannon Potkey

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Josh Dobbs treated 11 children to a shopping spree at Academy Sports the night before his second annual youth football camp in Knoxville.

-- Rhiannon Potkey | The Ledger

No matter where life takes him, Joshua Dobbs will always find his way back to Knoxville. The former University of Tennessee quarterback holds a special place in his heart for the city and the relationships he made as a Vol.

“I feel like I kind of grew up here in Knoxville, per se,’’ says Dobbs, a native of Alpharetta, Georgia. “I was an only child, and this was my first time kind of on my own. Knoxville really accepted me and felt like family, whether it was the football program or the community entirely.

“Any chance I get to give back to the university and community, I want to do that because I wouldn’t be where I am without them.”

Dobbs held his second annual youth football camp in Knoxville on June 2 at the Sansom Sports Complex.

Boys and girls ages 6-16 flocked to the field to run drills and get hands-on instruction from Dobbs and some of his former UT teammates. The night before the camp, Dobbs treated 11 East Tennessee children to a shopping spree at Academy Sports.

Myles Hollomon, 9, of Spring Hill, is such a big Josh Dobbs fan that he asked his parents if they could go out to eat to celebrate Dobbs’ birthday in January. His parents posted about it on Twitter, and Dobbs responded he thought it was a good idea.

Once Myles’ birthday arrived in March, Dobbs sent Myles a signed football and a UT piggy bank for gifts.

The Hollomon family drove from the Nashville area to Knoxville to attend Dobbs’ camp. Dobbs playfully carried Myles off the field at one point when Dobbs said he was making too many catches against a team coached by Dobbs.

“Myles loved it. He had so much fun, and Josh is really personable with the kids,” says Dawn Hollomon, Myles’ mother. “Josh is a great football player, but also an even better person. He does so much for the community and really reaches out personally to his fans.

“We have followed him and adored him from afar for a long time. This was a great opportunity to meet him in person.”

Dobbs is entering his second season in the NFL with the Pittsburgh Steelers. The 2017 fourth-round draft pick held his camp in Knoxville during a break from OTA (organized team activities during off-season training) practices.

“It’s really a different mindset this season just because I have been there and I understand the system. It’s a huge step for me, and I learned a ton this past year about how to be a successful quarterback in the National Football League,” Dobbs explains.

“It’s like night and day when I step on the field with the overall command of the offense and understanding the system, where I need to get the ball to and what I am looking for with the defense. It’s like 10 steps forward.”

The Steelers drafted another quarterback this year, selecting Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph in the third round. Many have projected Rudolph as the successor to longtime starter Ben Roethlisberger.

The crowded quarterback room, which also includes Landry Jones, doesn’t unnerve Dobbs.

“I just view it as more competition to help create quarterbacks that are as strong and fierce as possible. So, it doesn’t change my mindset and how I approach each day,” Dobbs acknowledges.

“I understand this is the system and every year they are looking forward. It doesn’t change anything for me. That is how it was in college. I always had to compete. I just have to be ready when my name is called.”

After Dobbs helped return Tennessee’s program to respectability, it hit rock bottom last season once he departed.

The Vols suffered through the first eight-loss season in program history and went winless in SEC play, leading to the firing of head coach Butch Jones.

The on-field frustration was followed by off-field embarrassment as Tennessee made a mockery of its coaching search.

Social media outrage over potential candidates reflected poorly on the fan base, and the administration seemed completely caught off guard. Athletics director John Currie was eventually fired and replaced by former UT football coach Phillip Fulmer.

The turmoil finally calmed once Fulmer announced the hiring of Alabama defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt to lead the Vols.

“It was a tough season to watch, and then tough to watch all the stuff that went on just around the offseason as well,’’ Dobbs admits.

“A place like Tennessee just needs some sense of consistency. That is the major thing. It has everything in place with all the resources, facilities and education.

“It’s set up for Tennessee to be at the top. It just takes people to realize that and respect the Tennessee brand.”

Dobbs attended this year’s Orange and White Spring game and has visited the football facility to meet some of the new staff.

“Coach Pruitt has really been open and expressed to the VFLs (Vols for Life) that it should still feel like home and they should still feel welcome even though it’s a different coach,” he says.

“There is a different feeling when you walk into the complex, but he has definitely been open to us, and I really like his approach and how he’s approaching the upcoming season.”

Dobbs’ connection to UT will always go far beyond football.

He graduated from the university with a degree in aerospace engineering, completing the five-year program in just four years while being a starting SEC quarterback.

The UT North Atlanta Alumni Chapter named a scholarship in his honor that has been endowed. The first recipient of the R. Joshua Dobbs Scholarship was named last month. Sophie Moore will be majoring in biosystems engineering at Tennessee in the fall after taking a mission trip to Kenya.

“I had lunch with her recently, and she is extremely deserving and a great representative of the area,” Dobbs notes. “It’s such an honor to have this scholarship in my name. There are 10 high schools in that area and a ton of talented and smart individuals. If they are looking to go out of state, Tennessee is an amazing opportunity for them.”

Having juggled being the face of an SEC football program with a rigorous course load, Dobbs hardly had any free time at UT.

The NFL schedule was a drastic adjustment.

“Oh, my gosh, I almost threw my Xbox out of my window one day I was so tired of playing that thing,” he says. “I had so much time when I got home on Friday at 2 and Monday and Tuesdays are technically days off. You still go in and get your work done, but they are shorter days and then you have all day to yourself. I thought, ‘Golly. What do people with all this time do?’ It’s crazy.”

Dobbs has tried to fill the hours by extending his community outreach to Pittsburgh. He visits local elementary and middle schools and recently supported the Children’s Alopecia Project at an event in the city.

He will be heading to his hometown of Alpharetta many times over the next few months for more camps and fundraisers to support various causes.

But Dobbs will never get too busy for Knoxville. Along with his ties to UT, he maintains close relationships with cancer-stricken children and charitable groups in the area. At his camp, Dobbs donated $2,000 to the Emerald Youth Foundation.

Although Dobbs doesn’t know where his professional football career will take him or how long it will last, he is determined to make a lasting impact.

“I have the big picture mindset of using my platform that football gives me for things in the community and making the community around me better,” Dobbs points out.

“I have opportunities that the game I love brings me, and I want to find ways to help make other people’s days better and help make the place around me better and hopefully eventually make the world a better place.”

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