ENID, Okla. — Professional indoor football brought Jayden Dobbs to Enid. Teaching will keep him here.
The Oklahoma Flying Aces linebacker was hired by Waller Middle School earlier this month, where he will teach physical education and coach the Waller football team. Like fellow teammate Marques Odom, who teaches at Enid High School, Dobbs will juggle his responsibilities as a teacher and a professional football player once the 2020 Champions Indoor Football (CIF) league season begins.
It's a lot of work, but Dobbs is more than happy to do it.
“I don’t see it being an issue with me,” he said. “Football and teaching happen to be my two favorite things in the world. I’ll be a happy camper come spring.”
Dobbs, a Wisconsin native, is the son of two educators, Dena and Jim Dobbs. That’s who he drew inspiration from when pursuing teaching himself. But his mother gave his teaching ambition new life.
Dena Dobbs, a kindergarten teacher of more than 20 years, hurt her leg midway through this past school year. Dobbs, who worked as a long-term substitute during the offseason, stepped in as her substitute after Christmas break and stayed there until he had to leave to go play with the Salina Liberty. While Dobbs taught his mother’s students, she taught him how she held a classroom and how she cared for her students.
“I’ve had teaching experiences where it hasn’t been great,” Dobbs said. “It’s made me reconsider if this is something that I want to do. But seeing how she does it with her class has given me new hope for teaching, and basically part of me moving back to Enid for teaching.”
A bet on the future
Dobbs came to Oklahoma on May 9 after being released by the Liberty. His first night in action against the Sioux City Bandits saw Dobbs record eight tackles with a pass breakup. In three of his last five games, Dobbs recorded double-digit tackles, one forced fumble and two fumble recoveries.
Dobbs earned Defensive Player of the Week honors with a 12-tackle performance against the Sioux City Bandits on June 15. He also recorded 1.5 tackles for loss and a sack.
The linebacker made an immediate impact for Enid’s team, just as the city made an immediate impact on him.
“I rolled in that Thursday night, played in front of the crowd on Saturday and I could see the support from the community,” Dobbs said. “Just how much the people cared about you after the games.
“It reminded me of my home.”
Home for Dobbs is “north central Wisconsin.” He went to high school in Athens, which is a town of about 1,000. His parents teach just north in Rip Lake and reside near Chelsea Lake.
“It’s all in the same radius,” Dobbs said.
After he visits family up north, Dobbs will officially move back to his new home in July. Dobbs likely won’t be the only Flying Aces player to reside in Enid, either. Players such as defensive back Ivan King and defensive lineman Tralund Webber are interested in planting roots in Enid.
Dobbs believes that more players residing in Enid will help improve the team next season.
In fact, he’s sure of it.
“This is going to be one of the biggest turnarounds in minor league sports history,” Dobbs said. “I’m willing to bet that next year is going to be night and day (compared) to this year.”
'The first one to help'
King and Dobbs were roommates this season during the latter half of the year when the linebacker was signed. Dobbs seemed quiet at first, but as time went on, King's relationship with his new roommate grew stronger.
“If I needed anything, I know he’d be there for me,” King said of Dobbs. “And I’d be there for him. He’s a really good individual.”
Dobbs is as trustworthy as he is responsible, not just for himself but for others. King said the Flying Aces' linebacker holds everyone accountable.
“He’s never let me down,” King said.
King said he had a doctor’s appointment in Oklahoma City after tearing his ACL a few weeks before the season ended. Dobbs was there to push him in a wheelchair and take his crutches when the pair made their way up the stairs.
“I felt very handicapped,” King said. “Anything I’m not able to do, he’s the first one to try to help.”
King said he can trust Dobbs like a brother. When asked about Dobbs' bold prediction of a big turnaround next season, King backed up his teammate with two words.
The makings of a winner
The Flying Aces finished the year 2-10 and didn’t win a game on the gridiron as both wins came by forfeit following the Texas Revolution franchise’s folding. But a record is nothing compared to the chemistry the team kindled toward the end of the season.
“The process is never easy on that,” Flying Aces head coach and team president Richard Davis said. “It’s also critical to your existence. You have to find harmony at this level and find guys that like to be together. I really believe we did that at the end of the year.”
Dobbs and King agreed.
“We feel like we know what it takes now,” King said. “To cross that hill and keep pushing, finishing those close games. We feel like we know what it takes and we’re going to work 10 times harder in order to bring that home in Enid.”
Along with team chemistry, Dobbs said what successful teams like Duke City and Amarillo have are a core group of players. It’s not so much finding talent and plugging them into the team, but finding the right people to make the team.
“I believe that next year, having a team of guys is what's going to turn this thing around for us,” Dobbs said, “as well as all the things that Coach Davis is doing for us. That guy is doing everything for … this franchise. You can see how much he puts into it and you can see how much our team is responding to that.”
Dobbs said Oklahoma isn’t playing for moral victories. Too many times, the Flying Aces have been “so close.”
“As harsh as it may sound, it doesn’t really matter for us,” he said. “It's still a loss. It's still not where we want to be. We see where we can be and that's what motivates us to have these conversations and have guys buying into Oklahoma and stick around.”