Hewitt Coach Took Huskies from Obscurity to Respectability

MONTGOMERY - Longtime Hewitt-Trussville track and cross country coach David Dobbs inherited a six-lane asphalt track "like a bad, bad country road" when he arrived at the school in 1990.
     When Dobbs started the school cross country program, he also coached football and juggled both duties every afternoon.
     Legendary Hewitt-Trussville football coach and athletic director Jack Wood concedes Dobbs received "minimal support, I'd say from us, the school" to build the school's track and cross country programs. None of those obstacles, though, could stop Dobbs.
     Dobbs built Hewitt-Trussville's programs from obscurity to respectability and ultimately to a championship level, winning the girls indoor state track title in 1999, finishing boys outdoor track runner-up in 2011 and 2017, winning five sectional titles and 12 more runner-up seasons and enjoying two state cross country runner-up seasons.
     "He did such a tremendous job of building that program that really had never had any kind of history and making it so competitive," Wood said. "It's remarkable, really."
     Dobbs also earned a reputation as one of the state's leading track and cross country ambassadors and As s coach able to develop lifelong mentoring relationships with his athletes. That's why Dobbs is one of seven recipients of the AHSAA's2020 Making a Difference Award, which recognizes coaches, teachers and administrators who make a positive impact in their schools and communities.
     "Coach Dobbs represents everything that is right about high school athletics," said Hewitt-Trussville athletic director Lance Walker, who played quarterback for Dobbs as a junior-high student. "He built our track and field program from the ground up and has devoted his professional career to making our program one of the most respected in the state. I am most thankful for the impact he has had on the kids in our community over the past few decades."|
     Dobbs arrived at Hewitt-Trussville in 1990 and saw the city grow exponentially over the last 30 years and eventually create its own municipal school system. At the time, Hewitt was a Jefferson County school and almost none of the county system's high schools competed in cross country, but his influence helped changed that.
    The "bad, bad country road" track is long gone, replaced by a state-of-the-art surface wrapped around the school's football stadium that can be seen from Interstate 59.
     Dobbs recruited the hallways as a junior high teacher and often enticed teens who didn't play other sports to give running a try.
     Seeing a "skinny, uncoordinated kid" reach a personal goal gave Dobbs as much satisfaction as winning a state title.
     "I told Coach Wood, 'Hey, I'm not going anywhere. I made a commitment to this place,' and they let me go and build it the way I wanted to build it," Dobbs said. "They didn't stop me. They didn't give me any hindrances. It was, 'Hey, you go do what you want to do.'"
     Dobbs started coaching in the 1970s while still a student at UAB, but worked other jobs and never became a full-time teacher and coach until arriving at Hewitt-Trussville in 1990. He never left the school just east of Birmingham, where he has begun a jog toward retirement.
     Dobbs left the classroom a couple of years ago and stepped down as head track coach after last season. He remains the head cross country coach and will be an assistant for indoor and outdoor track. "I'm slowly pulling the band-aid off," he said.
     Staying at one school for so long presents unique challenges and opportunities. For instance, Dobbs said he's coached many children of athletes from the 1990s and even coached the grandchild of an athlete he coached at Banks in the 1970s.
     "Dad or Mom - some of both - are at track meets or cross country meets as spectators, and new kids are there and don't know the relationship and see these parents come up and give you a hug and say, 'Hey, I love you,'" Dobbs said with a laugh. "Then, their parents - the grandparents of the kids I have now - come up and we're talking about trips we took in 1995 to go run in Knoxville or something like that. It's very interesting."
     Dobbs credits Trussville's parents and his wife Anita for aiding his success - on the track and off of it.
     "Nobody went out of their way to help us, I promise you," he said, "and I don't want to say that in a bad way. Our parents were the ones who were so phenomenal. We had great parent support. We always had great parent support. We sold it on the idea that, hey, we're in this together."
     Reflecting on his career, Dobbs needed just four words to explain his legacy at Hewitt-Trussville and the statewide track scene. "It is very satisfying," he said.