The Carolina Panthers Community Captain program recognizes outstanding high school student-athletes in North and South Carolina who excel on the football field, in the classroom, and in the community. The Panthers encourage their future development as role models while they continue their personal growth in college and in their professional careers.
Johnson (6-3, 240) is an extremely versatile two-sport athlete – he also excels in baseball – who has been named All-Conference Defensive Player of the Year and named AP All-State. He has received scholarship offers from Alabama, Florida, North Carolina, NC State, Notre Dame, South Carolina, and Wake Forest, but he has recently given a verbal commitment to play football for the University of Tennessee Volunteers under a full scholarship.
Johnson has the size to play middle linebacker at UT, but he could be switched to defensive lineman or somewhere on the offense. Though he has thrived at middle linebacker, he does not mind a switch. A true team player, Johnson states that "whatever fits the team best, that's what I will do."
It is no surprise that Johnson is such an all-around player. His brother Tyler plays linebacker and is team captain at Division II Wingate College. His two younger brothers also play football, and his father signed with Kentucky transferring to UT-Martin, where he played two seasons.
Johnson has had equivalent success in the classroom. Other than posting a 3.9 GPA, Austin has is in the National Honor Society and Beta Club. He has been named Student of the Month at Hickory High School and is actually on track to graduate in December. "It's a tough decision for him," says head football coach John Worley. "He wants to get started at Tennessee, but also wants to enjoy his senior year. He doesn't want to miss out on baseball in the spring."
Johnson is as active off the field as he is on it. He volunteers for youth football coaches in the community by serving as a mentor to their players. On Saturdays, he helps coach soccer for 3-4 year old children at the local YMCA. "Austin always loves to talk to the younger children; they absolutely adore him," says Dr. Kim Mattox, Principal at Hickory.
During the holiday season, Johnson helps his father's Rotary Club by delivering meals to those less fortunate. He is also one of the top student volunteers at "Brett's Ride," a local charitable foundation that helps raise money for pediatric cancer research; he drives support vehicles for over 1,000 bicyclists who ride for donations.
"[Austin] is simply one of the finest young men to come through this school," says Mattox. "He will surely be missed by not only the kids, but also the faculty and staff."
Austin and the rest of the 2007 Carolina Panthers Community Captain class will be recognized at Bank of America Stadium during a special on-field ceremony prior to the Seattle Seahawks vs Carolina Panthers game on December 16th. Award recipients will receive an authentic Carolina Panthers Community Captain jersey and will have the opportunity to participate in select Panthers community outreach events with current Panthers players.