UT football great tells high schoolers about ‘Team Jesus’
By Lonnie Wilkey
Editor, Baptist and Reflector
CHATTANOOGA — Joshua Dobbs’ career at the University of Tennessee speaks for itself. Perhaps that’s why he’s more comfortable talking about Jesus than himself.
Dobbs holds four school records for a quarterback and is high on the list of other significant football records. During his UT career (2013-16), he was 23-12 as a starter with a perfect 3-0 record in bowl games. He is tied for fifth for most wins by a Tennessee quarterback.
Add to the fact that he had a 4.0 grade point average while majoring in aerospace engineering and he’s a member of the National Football League’s Pittsburgh Steelers, it’s little wonder that he’s well respected across the state.
But, as he was quick to tell high school football players across Tennessee, the only team that really matters is “Team Jesus.”
Dobbs was the featured speaker at four Night of Champions rallies across the state in August, including an event at Red Bank Baptist Church in Chattanooga on July 20. Other rallies were held at First Baptist Church, Cookeville; Chapel Hill Baptist Church, Milan; and Second Baptist Church, Clinton. An additional rally was held at Second Baptist Church, Union City, with Phillip Fulmer, athletic director at UT, as the guest speaker.
During the four events featuring Dobbs, 283 decisions for Christ were made. At Red Bank Baptist, there were 22 professions of faith including a father and his two sons, along with 11 recommitments. Nine people responded for baptism.
Hundreds of high school students filled the churches to hear a question-and-answer session with Dobbs and Sam McElroy of Bellevue Baptist Church, Cordova, who along with Craig Whitt of Second Baptist, Clinton, has coordinated similar events in Tennessee and surrounding states for several years.
“Football is a way to connect with the kids,” McElroy observed. “The bottom line is sharing the gospel,” he added.
Churches agree to host the events and they take care of most of the logistics, including securing sponsors to pay for the cost of the event for the local high school students and their coaches to attend free. Others can purchase a ticket for a small fee.
McElroy said the events serve as an outreach tool for the host churches. Sam Greer, host pastor of the event at Red Bank Baptist, agreed.
“This is a major evangelistic outreach for our church,” he said, noting that it is a close second to Vacation Bible School. “We are trying to reach our schools and make connections with students and their families,” he said.
Red Bank Baptist draws members from 15 different zip codes in the area, so they work with a number of schools, the pastor added.
Greer said he has no problem using football as a means of sharing the gospel. “I want to do everything I can to help guys like Josh Dobbs who have a platform that they can use to share the gospel.”
Dobbs told the Baptist and Reflector that his faith is “a big part of my identity and what has gotten me here today. My goal is to share my story with the youth. I am not perfect by any means but every day is a time to try to get closer to the Lord … as I continue to grow as a man.”
During the Q&A with McElroy, Dobbs spoke to both the coaches and players in attendance on various topics.
He encouraged coaches to encourage students to play more than one sport. He exhorted students to excel not only on the playing field but in the classroom as well. He challenged the students to develop a plan which includes managing sports, academics, personal life, and their faith.
He especially encouraged the athletes to surround themselves with positive influences. “You’re a direct microcosm of the people you’re around.”
Dobbs shared the story of his baptism at the age of 16. “On that Friday night, I played in a championship basketball game. On Saturday, I celebrated my 16th birthday and on Sunday I was baptized. “That was the icing on the cake. … I have never looked back since then. That was the best day of my life.”
He reiterated that football has given him an opportunity to publicly talk about Christ. Dobbs observed that athletes have a platform and it’s up to them whether they use it positively or negatively. He challenged the high schoolers to use their platforms in a positive way to share Christ with others.
Dobbs exhorted the players to take full advantage of this period in their lives. “All teams come to an end. The one team I can never be taken off of, however, is Team Jesus.”
Greer followed Dobb’s presentation with a reminder to everyone present. “Jesus has a game plan and He is the game changer.”
Roc Collins, strategic objectives director for the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board (one of the sponsors of the Night of Champions), expressed appreciation for all the churches that hosted the events.
He noted that Dobbs did a great job of sharing what it takes to be a champion in life and that the churches presented Christ in a way that was “clear, concise and powerful.”
“These nights are important for us to reach more people for Jesus. We must utilize every opportunity to share the gospel. This is a practical way for us to engage our communities with the love of Jesus Christ and win Tennessee.”