“I don’t think people change. I think they definitely mature. But I think the essence of what I am today is the same as when I was five years old. It’s just maturity.” – noted philosopher and Austin resident, Ricky Williams
Taken a step further, maturity arrives on all of our doorsteps at different stages in our life. Some are born more mature than others and are surrounded by positive influence that expedites the process, for others it occurs after life events or learning from ones mistakes.
For 2017 La Grange running back, JK Dobbins, it was a healthy dose of the former and a tragic measuring of the latter that has made him one of the more mature 16-year olds you could possibly come across. Talking to him is like talking to a man about to disembark college and attack the world with equal parts knowledge and work ethic. Why would the real world be any different than how he attacks the football field?
I met up with JK in his hometown along with Leopards linebackers coach, Keith Cubit. It’s offseason around the state and the La Grange coaching staff told its charges to take the week off. Dobbins was meeting with Cubit to get the key to the gym so he could get a lower body workout in. Not only was he not missing workouts, he wasn’t missing leg day. The 5-foot-10, 190-pounder had already taken his morning protein, and though very gracious with his time, I felt like a helpless linebacker attempting to keep him from the goal line.
He’s as straight forward in person as he is shifty on the field. We cut right to the chase.
Inside Texas: I always hear about UT being your dream school. How did that come about?
JK Dobbins: Growing up it was my family’s favorite school. We watched them every Saturday or whenever they played. My family is just a big fan of that school.
IT: Do you have an earliest memory of Texas playing?
JK: When Vince Young ran for the touchdown in the Rose Bowl to win it, that’s definitely one of my early memories.
IT: What other schools are you liking right now?
JK: A&M, OU, TCU, and Arizona State. I really like UT, A&M, and Oklahoma.
IT: Have you visited A&M and Oklahoma?
JK: I have, yes sir.
IT: How do they differ or what do you like about each?
JK: Well, UT, growing up liking them and the tradition there is great. Coach Strong is a great coach I think. All the coaches were cool, I felt like they were genuine. But I didn’t get to tour that much. Next time I visit I’ll get to see all the facilities and maybe that will be another plus. OU, the town atmosphere was nice. They also seemed genuine and the facilities are nice. It’s a great football program, too, with Bob Stoops there. And A&M, they have the best facilities by far and coach Sumlin and coach McKinney they seemed pretty real and it’s a great town too, the town atmosphere is good there too.
IT: Being from La Grange – a small town – do you see yourself more of a small town guy or do feel comfortable in a bigger place like Austin?
JK: I think I can feel comfortable anywhere I go. I’m no close minded person, I feel like I can fit in anywhere. Some places I might not like, but I don’t really have a preference as long as the town is nice.
IT: What are coaches telling you about usage? I see you as a 3-down back you can also move around a lot.
JK: I see myself doing it all. Most people say I’m too small or they label me as a flashy back that’s a scat back but I think I can do it all. I’m pretty strong and I think I can run between the tackles. I can do anything on the field, really, catch the ball, run outside, run someone over or juke ’em. I think I can do it all. My weight, I carry a lot of weight, so I’m not like just some scrawny back.
IT: Not at all. What I like about your film, and what I was telling coach, you could play nickel in college too. Obviously you’re a running back but the fact you could play defense is impressive too. You’re just a football player. You told me on the phone yesterday there’s a possibility you could commit before the end of summer. What would have to happen for you to make a decision?
JK: When I take my last few visits, if my heart feels like it’s at home somewhere and I think I have a chance of doing something great at that school, I’ll commit. But I’m not 100% sure I’ll do it but that would be the reasons why if I do commit.
IT: What schools do you want to hear from that you haven’t yet? Any out there?
JK: Oregon and Ohio State. Those would be some good schools I would think.
IT: Oh you wouldn’t fit in that Oregon offense at all.
JK: [laughing] That Oregon offense…
IT: Do you have any personal goals for the season?
JK: To win state. Stats don’t really mean anything to me. I just want to win state for my team. For my coaches.
IT: And your town. Win one for Prause’s barbecue. Have you heard of Johnnie Johnson (Longhorn legend from La Grange)?
JK: That’s my cousin.
IT: So you know his sons, Kirk and Collin?
JK: Yes sir.
IT: Do you talk to them much?
JK: Not much, but on one of my visits when I went up to UT I talked to Kirk and he was cool.
IT: What else should I know about you?
JK: I’m a hard worker. I work hard every day because I want to be the best. I like putting in work, the extra effort because that’s what comes with being the best. I like the satisfaction after a good workout.
IT: Where does that drive come from?
JK: My dad was driven like that and he had a good work ethic. With him being gone (passed away February, 22nd, 2014 at the age of 33) it’s motivation to do the right things for him. And people doubting me, saying I’m too small, it’s all motivation.
IT: How often do you talk to the Texas coaches?
JK: I haven’t talked to any of the Texas coaches in probably two weeks but I’ll call them soon. Me and Coach Robinson want to build a relationship so I’m going to try and do that and get things rolling and get things right with them.
IT: What do you know of Coach Robinson?
JK: I know he has coached in the NFL and a lot of good places. He told me he got to coach on a team Deion Sanders was on and that’s one of my favorite players ever.
IT: What school do you talk to the most?
JK: I’d have to say A&M. Coach McKinney and I talk every Sunday. Some coaches they can’t answer the phone, they have families and I don’t know there schedules so when I call they don’t have the chance to answer, but, I talk to A&M the most.
IT: Should be a fun recruiting battle to watch. Are you attending the July 18th camp in Austin?
JK: I think so. My coach doesn’t want me participating but I think I’ll go up there and watch and talk to the coaches and players.
IT: Sounds good, I’ll be looking for you. Thanks for your time and have a great workout.
JK: No problem, thank you.
I feel good about Texas in this one provided they really concentrates its efforts on JK and makes him a priority.
To reiterate what I’ve said in the past, Dobbins is not a small back. He’s not tall, and actually the lower center of gravity, combined with the power and balance he already has makes him very tough to tackle. Arm tacklers need not apply, you have to hit him square and wrap him up.
He has decently broad shoulders, long arms and big hands. He’s stout in the chest and upper back. As odd as this sounds, he’s a big young man for his size.
In JK’s absence, coach Cubit glowingly stated what kind of team leader the junior-to-be is and how he’s naturally competitive. “As a freshman I’d tell him, ‘JK, you don’t have to try and squat as much as the seniors’ but he wouldn’t listen.”
This quote probably sums him up best. On getting a rematch versus West Orange-Stark in the playoffs, “We lost some players, but if we come out, don’t play scared and believe in ourselves, we can beat them.”
This is a player you want in your tunnel at the Cotton Bowl, not the other one.