INDIANAPOLIS For J.K. Dobbins, the pain from Ohio State’s heartbreaking College Football Playoff semifinal loss lingers.
It’s not just the mental pain from a dream season that ended prematurely. Dobbins is still feeling the effects from the injury that limited his effectiveness in the second half of the 29-23 loss to Clemson.
After running for 141 yards in the first quarter of the Fiesta Bowl, Dobbins suffered what he said Wednesday at the NFL combine was a "very high" ankle sprain.
He gained only 33 yards the rest of the game as he tried to play through pain.
"It definitely affected me a lot," Dobbins said. "It was a significant injury.
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"It was definitely tough to even go back and battle through it. It hurt a lot, definitely. But I just wanted to win the game for my team and tried to get to the national championship."
The injury has not completely healed, and Dobbins sounded doubtful that he would run at the combine. He said he should be ready for Ohio State’s pro day on March 25.
With Dobbins running wild, Ohio State led Clemson 16-0. He has no doubt about the outcome if he hadn’t gotten hurt.
"We definitely win that game," Dobbins said. "It still hurts a little bit. It's definitely tough. I love my teammates. I love that team. It was an amazing team. The chemistry on that team was amazing. It was just like a family. It definitely hurt to lose that."
Dobbins has been training in Florida, though he said that only in the past few weeks has the ankle allowed him to do much running.
"It's definitely frustrating, but God has a plan for me and I'll execute it," Dobbins said.
The crushing loss to Clemson ended what had been a storybook year for Dobbins and his teammates. He finished with 2,003 yards, the first Ohio State player to run for 2,000 yards in a season.
Dobbins said he hasn’t had much time to reflect on his Ohio State legacy.
"But a lot of guys will mention how I ran for more (career) yards than Ezekiel Elliott and Eddie George, and (more than) Archie Griffin in one season," Dobbins said. "It's pretty surreal. It's definitely an amazing thing. I'm very, very blessed."
Now it’s on to the NFL. Running backs have been devalued in the draft in recent years. In the past seven drafts, only six running backs have been taken in the first round. Dobbins, considered a borderline first-rounder, wants to join that list.
"It's definitely important," he said.
Dobbins is used to overcoming adversity, starting when he was a teenager and his father died.
"I come from humble beginnings," he said. "With my father not being here, losing him at 15, it was definitely tough for me.
"I had to mature earlier than people usually have to. It definitely helped me a lot for everything that happened to me."
Ohio State offensive lineman Jonah Jackson arrived at Ohio State as a graduate transfer from Rutgers in May not knowing much about Dobbins.
"From the outside looking in, you see a guy like J.K. Dobbins and you’re kind of thinking ‘superstar,’ but he’s a very humble guy," said Jackson, who is rooming with Dobbins at the combine. "Great leader. Great work ethic. I remember one time in training camp we’re doing the incline bench. Guys are sore. He’s got like 335 (pounds) on there banging it out and I’m like, ‘This little guy, he’s a beast.’ "
This is considered a deep draft for running backs, but Dobbins didn’t hesitate when asked if he thought he was the best one.
"Yes, I do," he said. "I think I have tremendous vision. I can do it all. I can be explosive. I can grind it out. And I'm also a leader. I think I make everyone around me play better."