Josh Dobbs hoping to put final touches on legacy with Vols

Staff Photo by Dan Henry / The Chattanooga Times Free Press- 11/12/16. Tennessee quarterback Joshua Dobbs (11) gets knocked out of bounds by Kentucky's Marcus McWilson (15) just shy of the end zone during the first quarter of play. The Tennessee Volunteers played the Kentucky Wildcats at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tenn., on Saturday, November 12, 2016.
photo Staff Photo by Dan Henry / The Chattanooga Times Free Press- 11/12/16. Tennessee quarterback Joshua Dobbs (11) makes his way over Kentucky defenders to score the Vols' second touchdown during the first quarter of play. The Tennessee Volunteers played the Kentucky Wildcats at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tenn., on Saturday, November 12, 2016.

KNOXVILLE - As Josh Dobbs walked off the field following Tennessee's home win against Kentucky last Saturday, it dawned on him he had only one game left to play at Neyland Stadium.

The Volunteers have too much on the line for their senior quarterback to be dwelling on it, though.

Dobbs on Tuesday acknowledged it would be tough not to get caught in the emotions of his home finale and joked that it would be weird for him to run through the 'T' against Missouri on Saturday not only because it will be the final time, but because he hasn't done it in nearly two years.

"The last time I ran through the 'T' was sophomore year," he said, "so it's been a while."

It's also been a while - nine years, to be exact - since Tennessee played in the SEC championship game, but those are the stakes for Saturday's game against the Tigers. If Florida loses at LSU in a game kicking off nearly three hours earlier in Baton Rouge, the Vols would be two wins from Atlanta. Tennessee closes the season at Vanderbilt.

Dobbs admitted last week he's starting giving thoughts to his Tennessee legacy as his impressive career nears its conclusion, but there's still some finishing touches he'd like to put on his time with the Vols.

"Just because things are still on the table, you don't want to write history in your mind," Dobbs said. "You just have to go out and play at the end of the day, and everything will write itself. It's just understanding that you have the opportunity to do something here that hasn't been done a while.

"You have to continue to prepare and play at a high level if you want to do that."

Tennessee is 21-11 with Dobbs as its starting quarterback, and since he took over for good midway through the 2014 season the Vols are 20-8. He will leave Tennessee as its career leader in rushing yards (1,799) and rushing touchdowns (27) by a quarterback. He's accounted for 76 total touchdowns - including 47 passing and two receiving - in 34 games.

For all of his play good and bad on the field, Dobbs' legacy off the field as the face of Tennessee's program, including his activities in the Knoxville community and his academic accomplishments, is untouchable.

In the past Dobbs has talked about the platform playing quarterback at Tennessee has given him and making the most of it, whether it's spending free time with A.J. Cucksey, a 6-year-old diagnosed with multiple inoperable brain tumors, or responding to a letter written to him by fifth-grader Riley Ripley, who like Dobbs has alopecia.

It's remarkable he's managed to carry himself off the field as well as he has while playing the role he has in Tennessee's turnaround and managing a rigorous academic workload.

"I remember choosing my college, choosing my major, choosing what I wanted to do in college and wanted to be in life," he said, "and a lot of people say you can't to go college and you can't play SEC football and major in engineering (because) there's not enough time in the day, you can't do this, you can't do that - whether it was in high school or in college.

"My message has always been, 'Why can't I do that?' During my time here with all the various things that I've been blessed to do and accomplish and all the things that I've accomplished, I've proved that you can really do whatever you want to do.

"There's enough time in the day to get things done as long as you set aside a plan of action and goals. Then you're able to accomplish whatever you want in life."

Dobbs said he does his best to enjoy his most rewarding moments, whether it's making a young fan smile or spurring the Vols past Florida, as he goes, but once the work this season is done, though, he truly can reflect on his time as Tennessee's starting quarterback.

"My main goal was just to go out and play the best game of football I could every time I stepped on the field," he said, "and play with a lot of heart, a lot of passion, a lot of energy and give my team a chance to win. I feel like since I've played and since I've been here, I've been able to do that, thankfully.

"We've been successful since I've gotten the opportunity to play for the University of Tennessee. I'm thankful for everything I've done and I'm thankful for the teammates and the coaches that I've had to get me to where I am today.

"My message to them is we have to finish out the season strong."

Contact Patrick Brown at [email protected]