MOBILE, Ala. — Quarterback Josh Dobbs is as much a whiz off the field as he is on it.
Dobbs majored in aerospace engineering at the University of Tennessee, with a business minor. He tallied a 3.5 in-major GPA, and displayed the kind of smarts that should set him up for a nice career after football.
With such a promising future, some have wondered if Dobbs even needs football moving forward. Here at the Senior Bowl, Dobbs made it clear football makes him tick.
"I want football,'' Dobbs said emphatically. "I want to play the game. It is great. I love it. I definitely wanted to go to school and major in something that I enjoyed and loved and can make a career out of after I finish playing the game of football. But football is my next profession, and I am excited about that and I want to make the most of it."
While practicing in front of officials from all 32 teams, Dobbs is hoping his NFL dream gets wings, and takes flight.
Browns coach Hue Jackson, who coaches the South team, said Dobbs is off to a nice start.
"I thought Josh Dobbs did extremely well,'' Jackson said after watching Dobbs practice on Tuesday. "He completes the ball. He is athletic, and he has a good arm. He throws the ball extremely well. I was a little surprised at how well he threw the ball."
Dobbs completed 202 of 319 passes for 2,655 yards with 26 touchdowns and 12 interceptions in 2016 for the Vols. He also rushed for a UT quarterback-record 713 yards and nine touchdowns. Dobbs led the SEC in touchdown passes (26) and passer efficiency (152.6) while ranking fourth in the SEC in passing yards (2,655).
Titans general manager Jon Robinson watched Dobbs play against Nebraska in the Music City Bowl last month. On Tuesday, he watched him from the stands at Ladd-Peebles Stadium.
"He is an extremely smart guy, and obviously played at an extremely high level for a really good program that coach (Butch) Jones runs at Tennessee,'' Robinson said of Dobbs. "He is a team-first guy, he is a tough guy, he is a really good athlete. He made some really good throws in the Music City Bowl I was able to watch, and it will be good to evaluate him this week in this setting."
Heading into Senior Bowl practices, some compared Dobbs to former Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott, a fourth-round pick by the Cowboys last season who became a starter – and a very successful one – in his first NFL season.
Rob Rang, senior NFL draft analyst for CBS Sports and The Sports Exchange, can see some similarities. Like Prescott, Dobbs has something to prove.
"Dobbs, like Prescott, is a guy who had his moments of absolute brilliance against SEC competition,'' Rang said. "And all of the success Prescott had at Dallas has allowed people to kind of forget he was fairly inconsistent at Mississippi State and he was very inconsistent at the Senior Bowl.
"I think what Prescott really does for Dobbs and other quarterbacks is it reminds scouts that college is college, and you have to really look at their traits and how do they translate to the NFL, and what will they ask these players to do. It might be very different than what they were asked to do in college."
Rang doesn't believe there's a senior quarterback this year worthy of an early round draft pick (Rounds 1-3). He believes Dobbs needs a good week.
"Dobbs, because of his athletic ability, he can certainly escape the pocket, and he has shown the arm strength and the accuracy to be able to put the ball wherever he wants,'' Rang said. "And of course he has the intelligence. So there are a lot of intriguing traits that he offers. But he also sprays the ball around a lot. He is not as accurate as you'd like him to be, given his experience. But he does have undeniable traits. So it is a big week for him. He has a chance to boost his stock with an impressive performance."
During a conference call last week, ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper said he views Dobbs "as a late-rounder or undrafted free agent." "(He'll) have to battle his way into a camp and then see what happens," Kiper said of Dobbs. "I don't see him in the first five or six rounds — maybe the seventh round or an undrafted-free-agent type."
Phil Savage, Executive Director of Reese's Senior Bowl and a former NFL GM, player personnel director, coach and scout, said all the quarterbacks here this week have something to prove.
"I think we'll know more by the end of the week and certainly after the game,'' Savage said. "I think (former UT and Pittsburgh quarterback) Nate Peterman has a golden opportunity to showcase what he can do. He has timing in his feet and his arm, and he has a good head on his shoulder in terms of anticipation and timing. I think he is probably in the best position going into the week.''
But, Savage said, this year's quarterbacks "probably have more questions than answers."
Dobbs, of course, hopes to provide a lot of answers during the course of the week.
"It is fun to get back on the field,'' Dobbs said. "Coming out here is a great platform to compete, show my football IQ and show my adaptability to various things, various offensive looks. And it's a chance to show my competitiveness. I just want to come out and play and enjoy the game.
"I don't need any more motivation at this point. I am self-motivated and I am trying to write my own story and come out and compete. This is a great stage. It is a great opportunity and you have to treat it like that."