Running back J.K. Dobbins was coming off his freshman high school season in La Grange, Texas, in 2013, when suddenly it became clear to him he had a future in football.
It was the Texas Christian University program, led by long-time coach Gary Patterson, that certified it.
“They were my first scholarship offer,” Dobbins recounted on Tuesday. “It was exciting. It was my first one, so I was high on ’em.”
>> Video | J.K. Dobbins looking forward to playing in Texas again
Ultimately, though, he gained offers from other schools across the country, and almost every major program in Texas, before he committed to the Buckeyes as part of the 2017 recruiting class. But players don’t forget the first school to show serious interest, and so it is for Dobbins, who on Saturday night will go against TCU in the Dallas Cowboys’ AT&T Stadium.
“I know their coaches well, so it’s going to be fun to play against them,” Dobbins said.
But then, on the way to an Ohio State freshman-record 1,403 yards rushing a year ago — in which he gained a head start because of returning starter Mike Weber’s problems with a hamstring injury — Dobbins made friends fast with the Buckeyes.
He also proved this week that he knows how to enhance relationships with the right people, treating four members of the starting offensive line to lunch at a local Japanese steakhouse.
“Those guys do a great job, they take care of us, quarterbacks, running backs,” Dobbins said of the linemen. “They block very, very good.”
The intent had been for quarterback Dwayne Haskins Jr. and Weber to help host, too, but “We set a time, and both of them had things to do,” Dobbins said. “The linemen just said, ‘Let’s go.’ ”
As for the bill, which Dobbins said was surprisingly affordable for lunch, he didn’t press Weber on splitting it despite the no-show.
“I don’t think of it that way,” Dobbins said.
Yet he has been all for splitting carries with Weber so far this season. Weber, a third-year sophomore, was the one who got off to a fast start in the opener two weeks ago with a career-high 186 yards rushing, then Dobbins came back to lead the two with 73 yards rushing last week, while also catching two passes for 18 yards.
Weber has 28 carries so far, Dobbins 27. A couple of breakaway runs against Oregon State helped boost Weber’s overall rushing total 217 yards, while Dobbins has 147.
Even their defensive teammates see little difference between the two.
“He’s a downhill runner just like Mike,” middle linebacker Baron Browning said. “Both of our backs are pretty good. They push each other.”
Dobbins has no beef with the two-back thing.
“We’re winning games, that’s all that matters,” he said. “I think it’s working. … I’m a team guy, it’s not all about me. Whatever helps the team, that’s what I like.”
Plus there is another major benefit.
“It’s better for me in the long run because I’m fresh,” Dobbins said. “Then I try to do what I can with my carries.”
And on Sunday and Monday?
“I’m not that sore,” Dobbins said. “So I think it’s great.”