Austin Johnson dwarfs most of his opponents on the football field.

But when he walks with his family, the 6-foot-5, 285-pound St. Augustine Prep senior fits right in.

His father is 6-5. His mom is 5-11. His younger sister is 6-2. His uncle is 6-7.

"My grandfather (also named Austin Johnson) was a big guy," Johnson said. "He used to be a professional boxer."

Johnson is not only big but quick and agile. That combination makes him one of the region's top linemen. The Galloway Township resident is headed to Penn State University on a football scholarship. Boston College, Rutgers and Syracuse also offered him scholarships.

"When I was younger, Penn State was the only school I liked," he said. "I liked watching them growing up. That's where I wanted to go the entire time."

Johnson is also one of southern New Jersey's top athletes. He started at center for the St. Augustine Prep boys basketball team that won the state Non-Public A title last March.

The St. Augustine football team (2-1) has won two straight after losing its season opener to Atlantic City. The Hermits host Egg Harbor Township (1-2) in a Cape-Atlantic League American Division game at 7 p.m. today.

In a telephone interview Wednesday morning, Johnson spoke about a number of topics including Penn State coach Joe Paterno and how St. Augustine's season has unfolded so far.

On how his football career started: I started in the sixth grade. I was mainly playing basketball. My dad's friend suggested I play football because I was bigger than everybody else. At first, I didn't like football. I'm not sure if it was my seventh or eighth grade year I didn't want to play.

On Joe Paterno: He's pretty much the face of Penn State. He's amazing. I really can't put it into words. First time I saw him was at the Alabama-Penn State game (on Sept. 10). He was talking to all the reporters and everything after the game.

On St. Augustine's season so far: In the Atlantic City game, we didn't execute. Coach (Dennis Scuderi) got on us for that. He called that Tuesday when we practiced "up-down Tuesday." You can imagine how that went. We got that feeling of losing and we didn't want to go through that again.

On what he likes better to play offense or defense: If I had to choose, I would pick defense, but I like both sides of the ball.

On being one of St. Augustine's leaders: I take a lot of pride in that role. I try to keep everybody motivated even when they get down.

On life at St. Augustine: It's pretty fun. The teachers know how to make the classes fun. They know how to get down and serious and get to work. It's an all-around great school.

On his plans to play basketball this winter: I called the coach from Penn State, and he said he likes guys who play basketball. It keeps your footwork and conditioning up.

Told to Michael McGarry