A.J. Johnson commanded Derek Dooley's attention from his very first practice at the University of Tennessee.
But the soft-spoken 6-foot-3, 245-pound freshman linebacker is a no-frills guy who's tied for the lead on the team with 21 tackles and had a high school career in Gainesville, Ga., filled with drama. Of the stage variety.
Breaking into the media mob in style, Johnson becomes the first freshman this year to appear in this week's edition of "Pop Culture" in the VolQuest.com series' third season.
VOLQUEST: Any hidden talents or skills? Cook, dance, anything?
A.J. JOHNSON: I think I might have good dance moves. A little bit.
VQ: Describe the dance.
A.J.J.: I can't really say. I know how to 'Beef' it up. That's something I brought up here to Tennessee, I think. 'Beefing' it up. That's a certain dance we be doing sometimes. Just go side-to-side with it, move your shoulders up and down and stepping with it. Little rhythm. Going with the beat.
VQ: What was the craziest or most memorable thing that happened to you during the recruiting process?
A.J.J.: I can't really say right now. I'm not sure. Well, I can't remember what school, but I think I was impressed with a gold envelope. I think I liked that. It was some gold school, I can't remember which one. But the gold envelope, I think I liked that a lot.
VQ: What are you listening to in your iPod right now?
A.J.J.: Before the games I listen to 1017 Brick Squad, Waka Flaka, Gucci Mane, a little Future. Listen to a little bit of it all. Crunk music.
VQ: Lil Jon?
A.J.J.: (Laughing) Yeah, I got a little 'Crunk Juice' in my iPod.
VQ: Any other pre-game rituals or superstitions? Anything you have to eat on game day?
A.J.J.: I just eat what they give me. I ain't picky about my food. I know I get my prayers in before the game. Pray for our team, pray for the other team. Just warm-up hard, stretch and get ready. Nothing too fancy with my routine.
VQ: If you could have dinner with any three people, living or dead, who would it be?
A.J.J.: I think I'd have dinner with one of my close teacher's husbands, have dinner with my momma and just my family pretty much. Nothing too picky. Just my family.
VQ: If you didn't play football, what would you do?
A.J.J.: I think I could be an actor. I think I've got good acting skills. I know I did drama in high school.
VQ: Were you in any plays in high school?
A.J.J.: Yeah, I was in a couple of plays. I did 'Guys and Dolls' and 'Hairspray.'
VQ: Did you have the lead in both of those?
A.J.J.: Not the lead, but I played 'Big Jule' in 'Guys and Dolls.'
VQ: How long have you had the hair, the dreadlox?
A.J.J.: Since my freshman year.
VQ: So you last had a haircut when?
A.J.J.: My last haircut, that was my eighth-grade year. I had a low-cut. It was probably around eighth grade.
VQ: What's your mom say about the hair?
A.J.J.: I know when I was all in middle school, I had to beg to get dreads and once I got them, I loved them. I got dreads for football, and I'm glad my mom let me get them when I was going into high school.