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The 10 Best Vol Football Players of the 2010s

5. AJ Johnson, LB

Off the field, AJ Johnson’s time at Tennessee is a sensitive subject, one that warrants more discussion than this space allows. On the field, however, there was no denying how talented Johnson was for the Vols and how pivotal he was to UT’s defensive success.

Johnson was a full-time starter as a freshman in 2011, and he was a cornerstone of Tennessee’s defense for the next few years. The talented middle linebacker became the first Vol in school history to lead the team in tackles in three-straight seasons when he did so from 2012-14, and he did so in 2014 despite being suspended for the final two regular season games and UT’s bowl game amid aggravated rape accusations, charges for which Johnson and fellow former Vol Michael Williams were acquitted on July 27, 2018.

Like I said, Johnson’s off-field issues warrant a more nuanced discussion than we can have here in this piece. But Johnson as a player deserves to be on this list.

In his 46 career games at Tennessee (44 starts), Johnson finished with 425 total tackles, second only to Andy Spiva (547) in school history for a career. His 207 carer assisted tackles are the most in a UT career, and he recorded double digit tackles in 23 of his 46 career games. He was the vocal leader of Tennessee’s defense from 2012-14, and he would be even more fondly remembered if not for how his career ended at UT.

On the field, Johnson was one of the best linebackers to play for the Vols over the last 20 years. His inclusion as a player on this list is deserved.

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