Head Strength Coach (Football)
The 2020 season is the sixth for Vanderbilt head strength coach James Dobson.
Dobson oversees all aspects of the Vanderbilt strength program for football, which includes winter conditioning, summer workouts and in-season training.
Dobson has placed his stamp on the Commodore program, molding an enthusiastic roster that strides to play every snap with relentlessness, toughness and intelligence. The Commodores’ overall fitness has been on display in the fourth quarter, outscoring opponents in four of the last five years. The Commodores have also enjoyed postseason bowl appearances in 2016 and 2018, and registered impressive regular-season finale victories over Tennessee in three of the last four seasons.
In the last six years, Dobson has trained seven Commodores selected in the NFL draft, including running back Ke’Shawn Vaugh, cornerback Joejuan Williams, linebackers Zach Cunningham and Oren Burks, offensive lineman Justin Skule and 21 others who have earned rookie free agent deals.
Prior to joining Vanderbilt, Dobson, a native of Mt. Horeb, Wis., spent seven years guiding Nebraska’s conditioning programs under former Cornhusker football head coach Bo Pelini. In Dobson’s tenure, Nebraska was one of three teams nationally, joining Alabama and Oregon, to post at least nine wins every year.
The 2014 Nebraska squad, ranked No. 22 by the coaches and No. 25 by the Associated Press, faced Southern California in the Holiday Bowl. The Huskers made a postseason bowl appearance every year in Dobson’s tenure.
Utilizing Dobson’s strength program, the Huskers were regarded among the nation’s most outstanding fourth quarter teams. In 2014, the Huskers outscored opponents by a remarkable 119-62 margin. Nebraska also scored more fourth-quarter points by its foes in 2008 (155-52), 2009 (96-32), 2010 (64-53) and 2012 (101-82).
In 2014, Dobson’s conditioning program helped the powerful Nebraska offense average 37.4 points, 248.2 rushing yards and 446.2 total yards.
Dobson’s strength and conditioning efforts also produced a tenacious Nebraska squad. The Huskers were known for producing remarkable comeback victories in recent years, including four such wins during the 2012 season and a thrilling 37-34 overtime victory over Iowa in the 2014 regular season finale.
In 2014, Husker standout running back Ameer Abdullah, defensive end Randy Gregory and freshman wide receiver/punt returner De’Mornay Pierson-El garnered All-America honors. Abdullah also ranked among the nation’s leading running backs, producing nearly 1,600 rushing yards.
In 2012, Dobson was one of 15 strength and conditioning coaches certified as a Master Strength and Conditioning Coach by the Collegiate Strength and Conditioning Coaches Association.
Prior to Nebraska, Dobson spent nine years with the Iowa Hawkeye football program. He was in Iowa City during one of the most successful periods in school history. Iowa appeared in bowl games in six seasons and won 38 games from 2002 to 2005. Iowa won 25 Big Ten games in that same period, including Big Ten titles in 2002 and 2004.
Dobson has had a history of working with some of the top college football players in the country over the past decade. Top pupils Dobson has worked with include Abdullah, defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, cornerback Prince Amukamara and linebacker Lavonte David at Nebraska along with safety Bob Sanders, tight end Dallas Clark, offensive tackle Robert Gallery and linebacker Chad Greenway at Iowa.
Suh was a Heisman finalist and the most decorated defensive lineman in nearly two decades while earning national player-of-the-year honors for the Cornhuskers in 2009. The impact of Dobson and the NU strength and conditioning program on Suh is evident. Following the completion of his career, Suh showed his appreciation by donating $2 million to enhance the four-year old Nebraska strength and conditioning facility.
Amukamara developed into a first-round NFL Draft pick in 2011 after earning first-team All-America honors for the Huskers in 2010. He went on to win the Super Bowl with the New York Giants in his first season in the league. Dobson helped prepare David to make a seamless transition to major college football. After starring as a junior college All-American, David recorded the most tackles in school history as a junior in 2010, before earning All-America honors in 2011. David was selected in the second round of the 2012 NFL Draft.
Sanders earned All-America honors at Iowa in 2003, and was the 2007 NFL Defensive Player of the Year with the Indianapolis Colts. Clark began his Hawkeye career as a walk-on linebacker, but moved to tight end and went on to earn All-America honors in 2002, before being a first-round draft pick. Gallery came to Iowa as a 240-pound tight end, and through the strength program, he left as a 320-pound offensive tackle, won the 2003 Outland Trophy and was the second overall selection in the 2004 draft. Greenway earned All-America honors as a senior in 2005, and was a first-round pick of the Minnesota Vikings in 2006.
In addition to his experience at Iowa, Dobson worked for two years as an assistant strength and conditioning coach at Southern Methodist, working with the Mustangs’ football, volleyball and basketball squad.
Dobson attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he worked as a student assistant with the Badger football team for three seasons. He earned his bachelor’s degree in kinesiology from Wisconsin in 1996, and his master’s of science and administration degree from Central Michigan in 2004.
A certified strength and conditioning specialist and a member of the Collegiate Strength and Conditioning Coaches Association and the National Strength and Conditioning Association.
Dobson and his wife, Rebecca, have a son, Colton, and a daughter, Elise.
2015-present – Vanderbilt University – Head Strength Coach
2008-14 – University of Nebraska – Head Strength Coach
1999-2007 – University of Iowa – Assistant Strength Coach
1997-1998 – SMU – Assistant Strength Coach