Sidelined Dobbins cheers his La Grange teammates, looks to Ohio State


La Grange senior JK Dobbins was still in severe pain in early September when he received a phone call from Ohio State University.

Urban Meyer was on the line.

The coach of the second-ranked Buckeyes was checking up on one of the most-valued members of his team’s next recruiting class. Dobbins, ranked by 247 Sports as the nation’s No. 1 all-purpose running back in the Class of 2017, plans to enroll at Ohio State in January.

Ezekiel Elliott made his mark with the Buckeyes before being drafted by the Dallas Cowboys. One coach has little doubt that Dobbins will join Elliott in the NFL someday.

“Coach Meyer said I was better than Zeke when he was my age,” Dobbins said.

The conversation between Meyer and his future player came roughly a week after Dobbins broke his right fibula and suffered a severely sprained ankle on the first play of La Grange’s season opener on Aug. 26 at Liberty Hill. The fracture required surgery, derailing a possible record-setting year for the 5-foot-10-inch, 200-pound Dobbins. It also sent shock waves through La Grange’s football team, which thrived in 2015 when Dobbins rushed for 2,740 yards and 35 touchdowns in 11 games.

“There was a grieving process (for Dobbins) after the injury happened,” said La Grange coach Matt Kates. “He worked his tail off in the summer.”

Without their five-star standout in the backfield, La Grange looked confused in September, losing three of its first four games. As November nears, Dobbins has learned to cope with his injury, and the Leopards are begining to play better, winning their first two games within District 10-4A, Division II.

Dobbins stays close to his teammates, encouraging them from the sidelines during every game.

“Everything happens for a reason,” he said. “Maybe God was trying to prevent something even worse from happening to me.”

No surprise, La Grange (3-3) remains a work in progress on offense, averaging 19.3 points a game, down from last year’s figure of 34.6. Sophomore Jericho Haardt has done an admirable job as Dobbins’ replacement, rushing for 615 yards and four touchdowns, while quarterback Colter Siptak has run for 373 yards with three TDs.

A senior-laden defense led by linemen John Villasana and Cordale Ellison, linebacker Dalton Ward and safety Daven McKenzie has limited opponents to 19 points a game, down from last year’s mark of 23.3.

Dobbins could have shattered the Austin-area record for career rushing this season. He needed 2,010 yards yards to break Brock Fitzhenry’s mark of 7,158 yards. Instead, Dobbins now spends much of his time rehabilitating his right leg, preparing to join his Ohio State teammates in two months.

His goals for his freshman season?

“I’m going to do things that no one is expecting,” said Dobbins, who recently had his cast removed.

Dobbins said he has always been physically gifted, explaining that he began walking at nine months. He said he carries a 3.5 grade-point average at La Grange, adding that his mother, Mya, keeps him grounded.

“When I’d come home after scoring five touchdowns, she’d tell me my room was dirty,” he said.

At Ohio State, Dobbins likely will be compared to Elliott, who rushed for 262 yards and two touchdowns as Carlos Hyde’s backup during his freshman season. A starter his final two years with the Buckeyes, Elliott finished his college career with 3,981 yards rushing — third on OSU’s career list — and 43 touchdowns.

So does Dobbins expect to become the next Ezekiel Elliott?

“No,” he said without hesitation. “I’m going to be the first JK Dobbins.”


Reader Comments ...


Next Up in High School Sports

Triplets of the Big 12: West Virginia
Triplets of the Big 12: West Virginia

We’re taking a tour of the top quarterback, running back and wide receiver of each Big 12 team. Today’s triplets: West Virginia. ((We’ve already done Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.) QB: Will Grier (2016 — did...
Daily Longhorn football history: The 2004 season
Daily Longhorn football history: The 2004 season

The Texas football program dates back to 1893. Each day, we look at a little piece of Longhorn history. We’re starting by looking at each Longhorn football season.  Photo of Sept. 2004 Sports Illustrated On Campus cover, for use with Longhorn football notes. Cover features Longhorn football player, Derrick Johnson...
Tom Herman’s recruiting success at Texas not solely based on Houston
Tom Herman’s recruiting success at Texas not solely based on Houston

Stay updated on the latest Texas Longhorns recruiting news brought to you by Mike Craven of Hookem.com. The Forty will publish M-F at 10 a.m. each morning to provide Texas fans with an in-depth look at the latest for the Longhorns on the recruiting trail. Much was made of Tom Herman’s run of commitments from Houston-area...
Top opponents for Texas in 2017, No. 11: USC RB Ronald Jones II
Top opponents for Texas in 2017, No. 11: USC RB Ronald Jones II

The countdown to kickoff is on. Over the 100 days before Texas takes on Maryland, we’re counting down the 100 best players the Longhorns will face in 2017. This series is all about impressing your friends at pregame tailgates and watch parties, so grab a notepad and buckle up. Don’t fall into the trap...
The Texas 22: Starting at defensive tackle — Chris Nelson
The Texas 22: Starting at defensive tackle — Chris Nelson

We’re breaking down who we think will be Texas’ starting lineup, a combined effort from Mike Craven, Brian Davis and Danny Davis. We’re doing two a day, one offensive and one defensive player. CHRIS NELSON Junior defensive tackle, 6-3, 300 High school: Lakeland (Fla.) Victory Christian Signing class: 2014 Career games...
More Stories