Austin Johnson would be the first to admit this season has not gone the way anyone wanted or planned so far, as the Volunteers’ overall record of 3-5 and 0-5 in SEC play has been a major result of several injuries to key players.

However, Johnson has dealt with the adversity well and has excelled on the gridiron and been a team leader that many look up too.

“We have been through a lot this year, but I feel that we have all really come together as a family and as a one,” Johnson said. “We are really close here and we had cookouts back in the summer and we got real close, so when we go through adversity like we have this year we tend to lean on each other for support.”

Week in and week out, the 6-foot-2, 240-pound middle linebacker has made his presence known in practices and on Saturdays through hard work, which has resulted in success. Through the team’s first eight games, Johnson ranks second on the team with 55 tackles, and posted a career-high 11 tackles against Georgia on Oct. 8. Not to mention he’s a converted fullback who’s in his second year of playing linebacker for the Vols. He compiled his 100th career tackle in a losing effort against South Carolina last week.

One moment this season the Hickory, N.C., native will remember came when he intercepted Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron and returned it for 19 yards in the game’s opening drive on Oct. 22. It was the second interception of his career.

“It’s definitely a memory I will have forever and hopefully I can get some more interceptions before the year’s over,” Johnson said. “It was a great feeling and it was something we needed. It’s really important to cause turnovers that can help out our offense in games.”

While Johnson’s play has been noteworthy to say the least, so has his senior leadership, especially when taking into account that the two other starting linebackers beside him, A.J. Johnson and Curt Maggitt, are freshmen.

“Austin has provided tremendous leadership and he has probably invested as much as any player on our football team since we lost the last game last year in working to be able to play the best he can play,” UT coach Derek Dooley said. “He is a confident guy so he has good command to make the calls and he has helped Curt and A.J. a bunch this year. He is our most productive player right now.”

Not only has Johnson excelled on the gridiron this year, but he has also excelled off the field, which has been a reoccurring pattern. Since walking on campus his freshman year he has been named to the All-SEC Academic Team, and the recently graduated communications major is on pace to continue that tradition this season as well.

“I’m not sure exactly what I want to do in the future as far as jobs go, but I might get into the car business or somewhere in the line of selling products,” Johnson said.

When Johnson is not on the gridiron or in the classroom, he enjoys playing other sports such as golf and cricket, hanging out with friends and breaking it down on the dance floor. Religion and family also play a big role in his life.

“I consider myself laid back and quiet at times, but I also like to cut up at times and be the funny guy,” he said. “One thing people might find surprising about me is I am a big fan of romantic comedies.”

Despite his soft side, Johnson looks to continue his strong demeanor on the football field the rest of the season and continue to be a leader to those around him in his final football season as a Volunteer.

“My goals for the rest of the season are to keep working and get these last couple wins as a team and continue to be the type of leader I should be,” Johnson said. “When I leave here I want to be remembered as someone who gave 100 percent effort and was someone you could look up too.”