KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Joshua Dobbs' eyes stare at the dry-erase board filled with formulas associated with supersonic and subsonic speed. A professor discusses airflow, shock angles and an "unreadable chart" in the back of the textbook.
When the professor tells his class of maybe 30-plus that his lecture is over, Dobbs is asked what he understood from the 50 minutes inside his compressible flow class.
"Some of it," Dobbs says with a smile. "Not all of it. This class isn't the clearest class."
But what seems foreign to most is normal to Dobbs. Tennessee's senior quarterback, quickly approaching the most important season of his collegiate career, doesn't blink at the challenges his aerospace engineering major brings him. He doesn't talk much in his classes, but he's completely dialed in to the teachings in front of him. He's either scribbling notes or dissecting every letter, line and number.
Dobbs, who returns as one of the SEC's top quarterbacks after throwing for 2,291 yards and 15 touchdowns with 671 rushing yards and 11 more scores in 2015, bucks the stereotype of a big-time college athlete trend with his brain-over-brawn attitude and unconditional love for learning.
"I like challenging myself," Dobbs said. "I've always been big into finding something that pushes me to have to work hard and challenges the way I think, challenges me to think in a different way or think harder and work harder. This definitely does do that."
Math and science came naturally to Dobbs at an early age, but his trip to Tuskegee Airman Camp as a seven-year-old created his fascination for planes. The Alpharetta, Georgia, native would take trips to Jackson-Hartsfield Airport in Atlanta to watch planes take off.
Dobbs added physics to his repertoire in high school, while juggling three varsity sports, and decided to go into aerospace engineering in college because of an interest in designing and building planes.
An internship at global aerospace manufacturer Pratt & Whitney last summer opened Dobbs' eyes to the world of engine manufacturing. It also got him next to his favorite jets: the SR-71, a reconnaissance jet, and the F-35 fighter jet. What fascinates Dobbs about the F-35 is its ability to perform "crazy stunts" in the air and take off in three different variants: long runway, shorter carrier ship and vertical.
"When you think about futuristic planes, that's it," he said. "It really does it all."
An internship this summer will take him back through the world of design, likely making his future career choice between design and manufacturing an even tougher one.
In the meantime, he's enjoying the heavy workload of directing an SEC East favorite and flying through the complicated world of aerospace engineering. He's diving into tangents, trusses and redundant forces. Reaction loads, joints and constraints grab his attention.
He takes pleasure in meticulously explaining Castigliano's Theorem on a dry erase board. He effortlessly recites the complexities of what his heat convection professor was talking about at 9 a.m.
"Without the simple convection equation where heat equals the constant, times the surface area exposed to whatever substance, times the temperature change between the substance and the object, you just solve for h with vision," Dobbs explained. "You have to solve for the h value with the given properties of the substance, given properties of the object and various things to get h and then plug it into the equations."
Ummm, OK ...
Dobbs admits it'll be "a little tougher" on the upcoming exam because they're talking about 2-D conduction and transient conduction -- which means the internal temperature of the object is changing over a period of time -- so you're trying to solve for what the temperature is at various periods of time as it's warming up or cooling down.
"It sounds easy, until you get the equations involved," Dobbs said.
Yeah, sure ...
Laminar Flow, displacement and redundancies are as second nature as identifying a Cover 2. Dimensionless parameters and rod strain energy are as exciting as a 10-yard pass against the blitz on third-and-9.
He's probably the only FBS quarterback who called a Tennessee staff member to ask about doing something for Pi Day, and later proceeded to recite 74 digits to the mathematical number Pi on camera.
Dobbs breezes through his classes, carrying only a couple of B's through his three-plus years at Tennessee, and insists he's never felt overwhelmed by school or football. To him, it's all about managing all of the different aspects of his life.
"You just have to segment it, compartmentalize your social life, your school life, your football life, and just attack them."
Dobbs isn't alone among big-time college football players with unique majors. Here are five more:
Corbin McCarthy, S, Duke, Sr.: Evolutionary anthropology
"I hate to say it, but the stereotype is that all football players are jocks," McCarthy said. "I wanted to do something different. I wanted to emphasize the opportunities that were presented to myself at an institution such as Duke and run with it. I've had my nights where I completely regretted it, staying up until two in the morning studying while my roommate hasn't done homework in a week."
Kirk Tucker, LB, Oklahoma State, Jr.: Biochemistry and molecular biology
After tearing his meniscus in high school, Tucker became enthralled with what his anesthesiologist did, and that helped him decide what he wanted to do professionally. "Once I saw the amount of the workload, it clicked that this was the major for me. I like to be challenged. Because of my lifestyle, people wouldn't expect the kinds of grades that I get because I'm so outgoing and all the free time I have to hang out with my friends. But they don't see that the latest I get my work done [for the week] is Tuesday. I never get too behind with anything."
Jimmy Herman, LB, Purdue, Jr: Industrial engineering
The son of two engineers, Herman loves math and science, but actually wants to be an actuary. He also hates getting anything lower than an A. "I don't want anyone else to get a better grade than me in the class. I prepare as hard for that as I do anything. I've gotten two B-pluses in college and two or three A-minuses. I remember all the classes pretty well and I wasn't happy about any of them."
Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M, Jr.: Geology (minor)
His major is actually university studies, but his minor is so much cooler. And while this deals with paleontology, he actually asked reporters at the end of a media session what the largest dinosaur ever found was. As of now, that would be Titanosaur.
Nick Ruffin, DB, Auburn, Jr.: Wireless engineering
It deals with the design, application, and research of wireless communication systems and technologies. Ruffin has said he'd like to design his own computer software, like Windows. "I also kind of want to design my own wireless software that people can use wherever they go. It doesn't have to be used on the Internet, it's just by itself. It works on its own Wi-Fi."