Dec. 24, 2013
By Jenna E. McVey UT College of Engineering
When Robert "Joshua" Dobbs throws a football across the field to his teammate, he is making adjustments based on quick calculations for distance, wind and the weight of the ball. The further away his target, the harder he has to throw the ball. These adjustments are done naturally in his head, but true engineers and scientists would say the art of throwing a football revolves around physics.
At first, it may be a surprise when Dobbs, a Chancellor's Honors College student and freshman quarterback at The University of Tennessee, explains he is studying aerospace engineering. Engineering programs are rigorous and adding football practice, film study, travel, and games to the mix might make some go into overload, or others to steer clear from attempting both the sport and choice of study altogether. But for Dobbs, physics and math are two of his favorite subjects. "Aerospace engineering is the perfect fit for the two subjects I enjoy most," he said. Dobbs has been fascinated with airplanes and flight for most of his life, and two events helped solidify his passion of aerospace. The first was a visit to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida when Dobbs was eight years old. Touring the facility, meeting astronauts, seeing the history, and riding in a flight simulator was a dream come true for him. Then at age 13, Dobbs participated in the Tuskegee Airman ACE Camp, where he went behind the scenes at the airport, got up close to the planes, talked with the mechanics, watched the air traffic control operations, and flew with an instructor in a single engine plane. "Pairing these experiences with my passion for math and science was a perfect match for a future career," Dobbs said. Maybe Dobbs will be living proof that the cores of aerospace engineering and football naturally fit together. After all, before college, Dobbs excelled both on and off the field.
Dobbs attended Alpharetta High School (AHS) in Georgia where he shined as an honor student, student council member, Elite 11, "pro-style" quarterback, and college-prospect baseball player. At 6-foot-3, Dobbs was recognized as an All-State, All-Region, and All-Area quarterback and was named "Player of the Year" for both his region and county. During his senior year, he threw for 3,625 yards and 29 touchdowns while rushing for 419 yards and 10 touchdowns, leading the state in regular-season passing yards for two consecutive years. In February, he was awarded the prestigious Franklin D. Watkins Award, presented annually to the nation's top African-American male athlete who exemplifies excellences in academics, leadership, community service, and athletics. In May, he was selected as the AHS Class of 2013 Atlanta Journal Constitution Cup Recipient, the highest award for a member of the senior class. Dobbs' intellectual abilities mirror his football talents. He was an exceptional high school scholar athlete with a 4.0 GPA and graduated with 13 years of perfect attendance.
Dobbs goal to achieve perfect attendance was an on-going competition between him and his mom, Stephanie Dobbs, who only missed a single day in the second grade out of 12 years of school due to a fever. Initially, Dobbs goal was to get past the second grade and then see how far he could get without missing a day. Year after year passed and before he knew it, he had more days behind him than before him. Ironically the biggest challenges for Dobbs to maintain perfect attendance occurred during his senior year when he took several college and official visits. Dobbs traveled around the country during the school year, but made plans to leave town each Friday after his school's 11:50 a.m. official daily attendance cutoff. Dobbs said there were many days that he had to race to the airport to make an early afternoon flight. On several occasions, he missed a few flights and had to go on standby because of traffic or parking issues. "I can't tell you how many times I had to tell a coach or host that I couldn't make it to their campus or event until Friday evening or later that night." Perhaps the closest he came to missing school was when Dobbs was selected to play for the Team USA National Football Team at the 2013 International Bowl. The bowl schedule centered around National Signing Day on February 6 and ran from a Thursday to the following Wednesday. To participate, he would have had to miss five days of school. After a very long time weighing the opportunity, Dobbs respectfully declined the invitation because with four months left in school, he felt he was too close to his goal to lose 12 years and eight months of perfect attendance.
Before Dobbs signed to play football for UT, he had a long-standing commitment with Arizona State University. Dobbs said he initially chose Arizona State because of its aeronautical program. But, his initial decision changed when Coach Butch Jones contacted Dobbs about an open spot for him at UT. "It was a long process in deciding which school to go to, but after evaluating each schools' academic programs, sports and college life, I knew Tennessee was the school for me," Dobbs said. Two other schools at the top of Dobbs' extensive offer list, which he seriously considered, were Princeton and Stanford.
Now at UT, Dobbs' transition into college has been seamless. Coach Jones wants his players to be mentally tough and Dobbs believes this mentality will carry over into his studies as an aerospace engineer. "Football requires a lot of time and commitment, but so does aerospace engineering. The key is to have great time management skills," he said. A typical day for Dobbs starts at about 6:30 a.m. He is in class from 8 or 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. He has football workouts one morning each week and then afternoon meetings, practice, and film study from 2:30 to 7 p.m. After dinner, Dobbs completes the day at the Thornton Academic Center from 7:30 to about 10 p.m. and returns to his room to finish homework and prepares to start the routine over for the next day.
While attending college, Dobbs has two goals. On the field, he wants to be the best quarterback and teammate so the team can win national championships. Off the field, his goal is to be the best engineer he can and design his own airplanes one day. While his athlete role models Condredge Holloway, Peyton Manning, Russell Wilson and Aaron Rodgers shape his performance on the field, his character has been shaped off the field by a few, significant people in his life. "My life is driven by my personal relationship with Jesus Christ; and my parents, Robert and Stephanie Dobbs, who are a perfect balance of success, integrity, self-determination, and the pursuit of excellence," Dobbs said. The future is bright for the multi-talented freshman, both on the gridiron and in the classroom.