Joshua Dobbs, Rocket Scientist with a Rocket Arm

photo via

One of the scenarios which seemed almost a slam-dunk this season was that Joshua Dobbs would be a “camp darling.” After all, the man he’s behind in the depth chart, Landry Jones, has somehow or other not managed to endear himself to the fanbase, despite being about what you would expect from a backup quarterback. After all, guys are generally backups for a reason.

I would say Steeler Nation was divided last spring on whether it was a “waste” of a fourth round draft pick to draft any quarterback at all or whether it was high time the Steelers looked beyond Landry Jones. For the former, Dobbs is never going to impress them unless he starts looking like the reincarnation of Dan Marino. For the latter, Dobbs is the poster child for the ABL Club (Anybody But Landry.)

But perhaps we should just look at the situation for what it is. The Steelers need a backup to the backup, and they took someone who intrigued them. Could Dobbs eventually be groomed into a starter? Perhaps. But such things are rare. From what we’ve seen in recent years, the backups who go on to succeed as starters (unless, like Aaron Rodgers, they were drafted to groom behind the current starter) are rather rare. I’m guessing this is because said backups managed to be successful in the system run by their team and, generally, in a rather limited exposure, but are in over their head when thrust into the role of the savior of a franchise.

But I didn’t mean this to be a discussion of generals but particulars, in particular young Mr. Dobbs.

A lot of things about him are well-known, and I won’t belabor them. He isn’t exactly a rocket scientist—his degree is in Aerospace Engineering, and scientists don’t like to be called engineers. Engineer or scientist, though, you have to be pretty smart to manage to complete a degree in such a subject while playing college ball as a starter. While he was at it he also took a minor in business. Lance Zierlein called Dobbs in his NFL Draft Profile “One of the most intelligent and likeable players in college footballl”

And while he was extremely productive at Tennessee, his senior season was a disappointment. It is only fair to note that this was in part because injuries ravaged his offense and offensive line. As he attempts to transition into the NFL, it’s clear he is still very raw and has some definite flaws in his game.

But tomorrow night’s preseason game will bring a bit more clarity on exactly where he is at this point. In the meantime, here’s a bit more on this most unusual draftee.

The visibly obvious trait, which Dobbs shares with Ryan Shazier, is alopecia areata, an autoimmune disease found in about 2% of the population. Shazier and Dobbs are the only NFL players with this disease, and I think it is totally cool they ended up on the same team. At least people aren’t quite so ignorant about this condition, now that Shazier has blazed the trail.

And while having an autoimmune disease might seem like a cross to bear, Dobbs’ mother has a far worse one—polymyositis, which has confined her to a wheelchair since Dobbs was five years old. As his father told David Ubben of Sports on Earth:

[W]e made a decision, my wife and I, that we would not change our life goals. We would not change our lifestyle, expectations we have for one another, plans we have for our son. We have this to deal with. How do we successfully deal with it and go on about our lives? And deal with it in a positive frame of mind. That’s what we did. We never made a big deal about it with Josh. Whatever Josh needed one of us to do, we did it.”

Ubben wrote that Dobbs’ parents “speak with a relentless positivity. Their positivity is battle-tested, proven to be deeper than meaningless platitudes or lip service…” They have clearly passed this on to their son. But what is the source of this, in a situation which would cause others to buckle under the weight of it? The answer came in a rather unusual question in an interview for the university newspaper after Dobbs’ freshman year:

Q: What role does spirituality play in your life?

A: Wow, I don’t know is there is enough space in this article to fully cover the subject. My personal relationship with Jesus Christ means everything to me. Everything that I am or ever hope to be, I owe to God and my parents…I was raised in a Christian home, where my parentsgrounded me in principles that helped me deal with the demands of life. I believe in the power of prayer…

I was also struck by this exchange, and it made me think that Dobbs is perhaps uniquely prepared for life as an NFL backup:

Q: How do you deal with some of the pressure and criticism that comes with being the QB at UTK?

A: Pressure and criticism isn’t unique to the QB position. Anyone who has ever played sports knows that pressure to succeed and criticism are a part of the job…In the QB position, you quickly learned that you are often going to get both credit and blame for things you shouldn’t. So you simply try to stay focused and centered on the goal…You only worry about the things that you can control.

His Twitter motto, if you will, quotes Joshua 1:9—”Have I not commanded you? Be strong & courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Sounds like a good recipe for surviving life in the NFL. And after all, the NFL may turn out to be a lot easier than the other things he’s survived in his time.


  • Interesting young man. I’m looking forward to seeing him in action.
    BTW, we engineers don’t like to be called scientists either. We actually make things that work (or we fix them so they work).


    • My husband doesn’t know what he is – he works in the Material Science and Engineering Department at CMU. So he’s either got the best or the worst of both worlds. I don’t know which. All I can tell you is that when I had a metal problem (metals, particularly aluminum, are his thing) I had to take care of it myself…


  • cold_old_steelers_fan

    The young man looked shaky to start but improved as the game progressed. He isn’t ready to be the back up but he does flash at times.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s