When it comes to senior leadership, the Rutherford Rams have plenty of it, boasting over 20 seniors on their roster. It's Austin Johnson though who shines above the rest, who's a linebacker and long snapper for the Rams, and is one of biggest influences to the Ram's young defense.
"He's my play caller on the field, has been since last year," said head coach Alvin Dempsey. "When I met Austin I couldn't get him to talk, and now he's the biggest motivator these guys have. He reminds me of myself enthusiasm wise, because he's got a motor on him and he knows how to use it."
That motor led to a big district win over Arnold on Friday night, and with this year being his last time to shine, Austin's hoping for more of the same results.
"I remember coming in my freshman year and coming in on varsity," reflected Austin. "I'm taking it everyday and it just comes by so fast, and it gets by you when you don't even realize it. I have to play every game like it's my last and play hard."
That dedication hasn't been just limited to the gridiron, as Austin juggles honors and AP classes, all while holding a 3.5 GPA.
"It's just dedication," he said of his success. "You have to be dedicated in everything you do. They say if you're going to be a leader you have to do it off the field as well as on the field, and that's what I try to model myself after and go do that."
"Academics is a major part of our program," said coach Dempsey. "If a young man wants to go to college, he has to have academics first. Every college coach wants to have an academic football player, and that's what he is, an academic football player."
That academic football player has garnered interest from several colleges, but before he thinks about the next level- there's much to be done as a Rutherford Ram.
"This kid leaves it on the field every week," said coach Dempsey. "He wants to go out on top as a senior. Like I said, he just plays that never quit attitude."
"It's all coming together, but I always have a saying that you can never be satisfied with what you got," said Austin. "You have to keep working, no matter what."
Keep working no matter what, because it all starts and ends with that Rutherford defense. Austin's leadership abilities are noticed outside of Bay County, as the senior was part of the group that went to Cleveland over the summer for the NFL's 7 on 7 tournament. While there, National Guard recruits gave him an award for his leadership abilities.