Johnson Striving for Strong Finish
Austin Johnson

Nov. 18, 2011


Austin Johnson has two favorite memories from his time at Tennessee.

The first one is obvious: his touchdown at fullback against South Carolina in 2009.

The second one is a little more surprising: defensive lineman Wes Brown's interception and run for a touchdown against Vanderbilt that same year.

"It was cool for him as a senior leader to score on that," Johnson recalled.

A senior leader himself, Johnson now hopes his touchdown return comes soon -- otherwise he'll be in hot water at home.

"It has to happen," Johnson said on the prospect of him scoring a touchdown on defense. "I promised my mom I would. Because I have a touchdown on offense, I have to get a touchdown on defense."

Johnson has had his share of opportunities to find the end zone this year, as he leads the team in interceptions with three. He also has shown a knack for flipping field position by returning those interceptions for a combined 39 yards.

"I'm getting close," Johnson said. "Hopefully next time I'll get in there."

Also Second in Tackles
Not only does Johnson lead the team in interceptions, but the Hickory, N.C., native is second on the team lead in tackles.

"My job is to go on the field and produce for the defense," Johnson said. "Being an older, senior player, I've seen a lot of different looks. I'm starting to get the feel of it. I need to make those kinds of plays. I should have more than two interceptions. I just need to keep making turnovers, keep making tackles and keep producing for this team."

It's fair to say not many people expected Johnson to be in this position. Recruited by Phillip Fulmer as a fullback, Johnson spent his first two years on the team at the same position. With the arrival of Derek Dooley in 2010, Johnson found himself adjusting to a new position on the other side of the ball.

"The position change was just the card I was dealt," Johnson said. "The Lord had a plan for me to play numerous positions. I had a great time at fullback, but linebacker has been a great switch for me. I couldn't have been happier, because that's where I wanted to be anyways."

Johnson now is focused on making sure the Vols finish with a flourish.

"We have to keep winning," he said. "That's my responsibility. We were in the same position last year and we just have to keep working in practice and finish strong. We have a young team and I'm one of the older guys. I just hope I can be a role model for them."





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