Joshua Dobbs’ background is equal parts football and academia. The quarterback maintained a 4.0 GPA in college and has been a dedicated football player since he was five years old. Dobbs isn’t afraid of a challenge, as he demonstrates through his experiences with alopecia, an autoimmune disorder.
His health issues serve as a big inspiration for his current charity and volunteer work. We’ll get to that — but first, let’s look at the football career that landed him a spot with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Joshua Dobbs’ football career so far
Dobbs’ path to the NFL kicked into gear after attention from NCAA scouts gave him his pick of schools. After initially committing to Arizona State University, he switched to the University of Tennessee at the last minute. Already, Dobbs’ profile was high enough that this generated national headlines as SB Nation reported.
Over four years and 37 games played, the QB threw for 2,160 yards and notched 37 touchdowns. This earned Dobbs a fourth-round 135th overall pick by the Steelers in the 2017 NFL Draft. According to Sportrac, he signed a four-year, $2.95 million contract to serve as the backup behind longtime QB duo Ben Roethlisberger and Landry Jones.
When Mason Rudolph got his chance over him, the Steelers saw the opportunity to capitalize off Dobbs. He was traded to the Jaguars for a fifth-round draft pick, and he’ll get his next chance to play in the 2020 season.
Dobbs’ autoimmune disorder
Dobbs entered the NFL against the heavy odds inherent to such lofty goals. But unlike most, he did it while coping with an autoimmune disorder known as alopecia areata. Since Dobbs was just five years old, he’s experienced this disease.
According to WebMD, alopecia is the result of the human body’s immune system attacking hair follicles instead of pathogens or other foreign bodies. This rare disorder causes hair to fall out in varying degrees depending on the person. Dobbs first noticed a bald spot in third grade, which was handled by a simple topical treatment.
His alopecia flared up more aggressively in high school just as he emerged as an athlete with pro ambitions. Cortisone shots managed it for a time, but he eventually decided to shave his head and avoid further treatments. Thankfully, he’s in common company: Some of the greatest athletes in history have shaved their heads.
How Dobbs became an advocate for people with alopecia
An athlete with a shaved head may not be a jarring sight. But for a high schooler, it was more unexpected. Dobbs’ alopecia also caused hair loss in his eyelashes and eyebrows. He was initially embarrassed. This didn’t last long, however.
Football and academic feats bolstered Dobbs’ confidence, inspiring him to open up about his experience with alopecia, reports 10 News. Once he gained a larger platform with the NFL, he dedicated more time to being an advocate for people with the disorder. Dobbs opened up to Medline Plus about the discrimination he’s faced due to his alopecia.
“Some opposing fans and players would try to impact my play with taunts about my hair loss,” Dobbs said. He was embarrassed well into his pro football years. Then he met another athlete with alopecia.
“About a year ago, I had the pleasure of meeting and spending time with former Dallas Mavericks star Charlie Villanueva,” Dobbs said. “His core message, which I try to share, resonated with me: ‘I have alopecia. Alopecia doesn’t have me.'” Now, Dobbs spends his time following Villanueva’s example and visiting children who have alopecia, showing them the disorder doesn’t have to control their lives.
Health advocate, NFL quarterback, and rocket scientist?
Dobbs developed alopecia and his self-esteem plummetted. He didn’t completely cope with it until his time as a pro athlete. Yet he managed to make it to the NFL anyway. Even more impressive, he studied to become an engineer at the same time — the kind with a special interest in sending things to space.
That’s right. Dobbs, NFL QB, with a 4.0 college GPA, is a certified rocket scientist. He even served out his NFLPA external internship with NASA, leveraging his degree in Aerospace Engineering. Clearly, an alopecia diagnosis isn’t the end of the world. For Dobbs, it was simply a fact of life that didn’t stop him from achieving his incredible goals.