Josh Dobbs, Vol QBs in Week 1 Starts, & Expanding Horizons

Peyton Manning threw 9,380 passes in his NFL career. In the modern era, here’s the rest of that list for quarterbacks who finished their college career at Tennessee (via Pro Football Reference):

  • Pat Ryan had 657 career attempts and made 19 starts, including Week 1 for the New York Jets in 1984.
  • Heath Shuler was the third overall pick in the 1994 draft, making 22 starts for Washington and then New Orleans as injuries took their toll. Shuler had 593 career pass attempts.
  • Bobby Scott had 500 career attempts for New Orleans, including a Week 1 start in 1976, and spent much of his career backing up Archie Manning.

Next on the list: Josh Dobbs, who enters the 2023 season with 85 career attempts.

He’ll also enter Week 1 as the projected starter for the Arizona Cardinals:

He’ll join Manning, Ryan, Shuler, Scott, and Dewey Warren (1968 with Cincinnati) as former Vols to make a Week 1 start at quarterback in the modern era. That being the list, he’s the first Vol to do it since Manning, and the second since Shuler, who made his last Week 1 start in 1997.

Back in those days, Tennessee had an incredible line of quarterbacks who carried the program to new heights from 1989-2007. Shuler, Manning, Tee Martin and Erik Ainge were all drafted, while Andy Kelly won two SEC titles and Casey Clausen made two trips to Atlanta.

At this position, the Vols how have the potential for a similar lineage. Hendon Hooker continues to recover from his knee injury in November, but could have opportunities in Detroit with Jared Goff’s contract soon to expire. On campus, when Virginia punted the Vols back to the seven yard line on Saturday, I know many of us were thinking, “…I mean, let’s just see if he can. Like, just give Joe a shot on first down, and if he can’t throw it 93 yards, it’s 2nd-and-10.” And behind him is one of the highest-rated prospects the Vols have ever signed.

The mark of a great program is the way it isn’t beholden to one great individual, or one great team. It’s what we’ve seen from Rick Barnes and company in basketball, even after Grant Williams and company made their way to the NBA. And it’s what Tennessee will have a chance to do at quarterback under Josh Heupel.

Between the good old days and present glory was a long wilderness, in which no one shined a brighter light than Dobbs. (Shout out as well to Tyler Bray, who had a nine-year career as an NFL backup). Tennessee’s on-field success last fall was so transformative, it helped us view the past in healthier ways as well. And now, into the future on Sundays, Dobbs has the opportunity to continue to grow his legacy among Tennessee fans who loved watching him get his shot with the Titans late last fall.

From an NFL standpoint, Dobbs is already one of the five best quarterbacks to call Tennessee home. And he’s earned himself another opportunity now, with Kyler Murray unavailable until at least Week 5, to make more good memories – not just in the past, but in the present.

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