By Van Adams, Player Engagement Insider
Earlier this off-season, Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Joshua Dobbs, was one of 41 NFL players matched with businesses for a three-week NFLPA Externship where players gained hands-on experience and insight into areas they may want to pursue after football. Dobbs, along with five other players from different NFL teams, shadowed executives from Fanatics, the global leader in licensed sports merchandise.
Over the three weeks, Dobbs spent time at Fanatics headquarters in Jacksonville, Florida and office locations throughout the state, as well as sites in New York and Philadelphia learning about various aspects of the company’s business operations including manufacturing, licensing, retail sales, customer service, technology, marketing, and public relations.
“There was a lot of traveling in a van driving all around Florida. There were six of us, so we were able to have a lot of time to get to know each other, which was great because we were from different teams and in different phases of our career,” said Dobbs who selected the Fanatics opportunity to gain insights on how to launch and grow a business to scale.
“We had nightly dinner meetings with the mentors who shared a lot of knowledge you don't get every day,” Dobbs said. “I had the opportunity to sit down with the CEO, Mark Rubin. It was cool to pick his brain to see how he got to where he is and make moves to get Fanatics to where they are today.”
“Seeing firsthand how important (company) culture is in cultivating anything. Whether it’s a football team or you’re trying to grow your own business, you have to establish and keep a consistency that will help you be successful in whatever industry you’re in.”
The former Tennessee standout and scholar-athlete has a knack for using his time wisely and being well prepared for the task at hand.
As a high school student, Dobbs took advanced placement classes that would allow him the opportunity to bypass prerequisite courses when he arrived in college. By doing this, he was able to jump right into the engineering and business curriculum, which helped him stay on the path to graduate from college in four years.
Dobbs, a native of Alpharetta, Georgia, earned a Bachelor of Science degree in aerospace engineering and a minor in business from the University of Tennessee and received the Torchbearer Award, the highest honor for an undergraduate student, which recognizes accomplishments in the community and academics.
Recognizing that his combined academic and athletic pursuits make him an outlier of sorts in some respects, Dobbs credits his parents and his faith for his gritty determination and focus.
“You’ve just got to be dedicated. I knew what I wanted to accomplish on and off the football field. Daily motivation, and a regimented schedule drove me every day to get it (college degree) accomplished in 4 years,” said Dobbs, who had a perfect 4.0 grade point average and was named to the SEC Academic Honor Roll while at Tennessee.
“Growing up, my parents wanted me to be a lawyer,” said Dobbs, whose mother is a recently retired regional human resources executive and whose father is a regional senior vice president in the banking industry.
“My favorite subjects were math, physics, and science classes and I really enjoyed aviation,” Dobbs said. “So, I incorporated what I really had a passion for and knew aerospace engineering was what I wanted to do. The business side came along because I knew whatever I do, I want to be on the management side where I am working towards being a CEO of a company or running my own company.”
Dobbs has approached his first NFL off-season as he has approached much of his life, with a game plan and focus. The externship was just the first step in exploring what opportunities may lie ahead for an aviation enthusiast with a keen interest in business and impeccable time management skills.
“My favorite Bible verse, Joshua 1:9 hasn’t failed me yet,” Dobbs said. “It talks about being strong and courageous and not to be discouraged. It helps keep me focused and moving forward each and every day.”
For now, Dobbs’ priority is studying and training to be the best he can be on the football field. He will spend the rest of the off-season training and giving back in his home and college towns. When he has downtime again in the next off-season, he plans to take advantage of more professional development programs and resources the NFL provides so that when the time comes, he’ll be ready to make an impact in the world of aviation and business.
Van Adams is an award-winning entrepreneur and small business owner with expertise in sports business and business development. Over the last decade, she has represented a number of iconic sports celebrities and executed marketing campaigns for their personal celebrity and/or business ventures. An advocate for women in business, Van is the creator and producer of Gathering on the Greens, a women’s golf initiative, and serves as President of the Board of Directors for the NYC Metro Chapter of Women in Sports and Events where she oversees programming and strategy. Van often conducts workshops for the small business & sports business communities. She spends her spare time in a test kitchen baking or on a golf course working on her short game.