ROAN MOUNTAIN, Tenn. (WJHL) – Cloudland senior Auston Caraway has been a football player since fourth grade. From Day 1, he’s never been shy about contact.

In fact, the embraces it.

“I just like [football] because – you hit people and stuff like that,” he explained.

It’s not surprising that he immediately took a liking to the defensive side of the ball.

“I like playing middle linebacker, because I get all the linemen – all of them try to hit me,” he said. “I just like being physical all the time.”

His hard-nosed style has helped lead the Highlanders to four-consecutive state playoff appearances in Class 1A, including a trip to the semifinals in 2021.

A deep playoff run has become the expectation for the Carter County school.

“Definitely go to the fourth round again,” Caraway said of the team’s 2023 goals. “That was awesome.”

However, the team fell short in the First Round of the TSSAA playoffs to Greenback, 40-21. It brought Caraway’s senior campaign to an earlier close than usual, but he’s grateful for every moment over the last few seasons.

“Just hanging out with my friends out there – all my friends,” he said. “That’s just fun.”

When he’s not crunching pads on the practice field, you might find Caraway in the workshop.

“I started welding since I was a freshman,” he said. “I fell in love with it.”

He is a member of the school’s C-Tech Program, which provides hands-on technology education to thousands of students in schools across the country.

“We usually just weld on pipe – and then down here at Cloudland Shop we build stuff sometimes,” he shared. “Right now we’re working on a smoker.”

His experience gained within the program has already helped him land a welding job at Eastman Chemical Company starting in the new year.

“I ain’t nervous – I’m just excited.”

That’s because he’s received some pretty good advice when it comes to career choices.

“I have fun,” he said. “People always tell me if you have a job, you’ve gotta have fun in it.”