Winter 2022

Ravens RB J.K. Dobbins giving glory to God after return from ACL tear

A first-team All-American running back in 2019 during his stellar final season at Ohio State, J.K. Dobbins seemed destined for similar success in the NFL. Baltimore had selected the Houston native in the second round in 2020, and his 805 rushing yards and nine touchdowns immediately bolstered the Ravens’ backfield.

But in Baltimore’s final preseason game in 2021, against Washington, Dobbins caught a check-down pass from quarterback Lamar Jackson, was tackled at an angle and stayed on the ground writhing in pain. He had torn his left ACL.

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Dobbins was sidelined for the entirety of the 2021 season as he worked hard to rehab his surgically reconstructed knee. He watched as his Ravens teammates struggled to an 8-9 record and a fourth-place finish in the AFC North.

Dobbins was all set to return with a vengeance in 2022, but his debut was delayed until Week 3 as the effects of his injury lingered. After four games in which he rushed for a total of 123 yards on 35 attempts, he knew something wasn’t right.

“Am I ever going to be good again?” Dobbins said in December about his thoughts earlier in the season, according to BaltimoreRavens.com. “Is this the new me? Am I going to be bad? Am I done?”

After those four games, Dobbins decided to take himself out of the lineup once again to have another knee procedure to clean up scar tissue and improve his range of motion. It was a decision, Dobbins said, that God told him to make.

“I got woken up out of my sleep by God to tell me to do that,” Dobbins said. “First game back, I go for 120 (rushing yards). It was the right decision.”

That first game back was on Dec. 11 against the Pittsburgh Steelers, in which he scored the only touchdown for the Ravens in the 16-14 win.

“My knee’s good. It’s been a long process. I can only thank God for it,” Dobbins said in an on-field interview after the game with CBS Sports reporter Melanie Collins. “I give all credit to the lineman, though. The offensive linemen, they make sure to take care of us. … I give all glory to God, too.”

Dobbins continued his triumphant return the following week with 125 rushing yards on only 13 attempts, although Baltimore lost to the Cleveland Browns, 13-3. After two more solid performances, Dobbins was given the day off in a Week 18 loss at the Cincinnati Bengals with a playoff berth already secured and nothing more to gain.

Checking in as the No. 6 seed in the AFC, Baltimore is preparing to face a very familiar opponent in the wild-card round: those same Bengals, who earned the No. 3 seed after winning their last eight contested games.

Dobbins knows the task will be made tougher with the injury to Jackson, the 2019 NFL MVP who’s out with his own knee injury, but Dobbins also knows Who it is that has sustained him through tough times and given him the ability to play again at football’s highest level.

Dobbins’ mother was only 18 when she gave birth to him; she considered abortion before changing her mind. Then, when Dobbins was 15, his father passed away from a stroke at the age of 33 after battling heart issues for years.

“I’m just a man of God. I’m always going to keep faith,” Dobbins told Ravens studio host Melissa Kim in December. “… I’ve been through a lot. Losing a father is harder than any injury or anything that happens in football. So, those are just the things that keep me going and keep me positive and keep me happy.

“I know, even though I got hurt, I’m still in the NFL. A lot of people don’t get to say that. … God blessed me with the ability to walk again. I know many people don’t get to walk again, so I stay positive because I know there are things much bigger than this.”

Dobbins will seek to continue churning out impressive performances in the playoffs, when the lights are brightest, knowing it’s a gift from God to be there. Baltimore’s game against Cincinnati is set for 8:15 p.m. ET on Sunday.

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