Dont'a Hightower

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Dont'a Hightower
refer to caption
Hightower with the New England Patriots in 2013
No. 54 – New England Patriots
Position: Linebacker
Personal information
Date of birth: (1990-03-12) March 12, 1990 (age 27)
Place of birth: Lewisburg, Tennessee
Height: 6 ft 3 in (1.91 m)
Weight: 265 lb (120 kg)
Career information
High school: Lewisburg (TN) Marshall Co.
College: Alabama
NFL Draft: 2012 / Round: 1 / Pick: 25
Career history
Roster status: Active
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL statistics as of Week 1, 2017
Tackles: 374
Quarterback sacks: 17.0
Interceptions: 0
Forced fumbles: 2
Player stats at

Qualin Dont'a Hightower[1] (born March 12, 1990) is an American football linebacker for the New England Patriots of the National Football League (NFL). He played college football for the University of Alabama, was recognized as an All-American, and was a member of two BCS National Championship teams. Hightower was selected by the Patriots in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft. Hightower is noted for his versatility, as he can play both middle and outside linebacker. Hightower won Super Bowl XLIX and Super Bowl LI with the Patriots.

Early years[edit]

Hightower was born in Lewisburg, Tennessee. He attended Marshall County High School in Lewisburg, where he played for the Marshall County Tigers high school football team. He first drew recognition his sophomore year when the team's starting running back quit the team. In the last four games of the season, he rushed for over 1,000 yards and seven touchdowns.[2] After growing to 6 ft 2 in (1.88 m) prior to his junior year, Hightower was moved to linebacker and tight end. He collected 98 tackles, two sacks, and seven forced fumbles, while at tight end, he caught 18 passes for 253 yards and four touchdowns.[2]

Having grown to six feet, three inches tall as a senior, Hightower again switched positions, playing defensive end. After recording 168 tackles (14 for loss), five forced fumbles, five interceptions and four fumble recoveries, he was named 3A Mr. Football Lineman of the Year and The Tennesseans Defensive Most Valuable Player in 2007. He also added 875 yards and 19 touchdowns on offense.

Hightower was selected to play in the U.S. Army East West All-Star Game in San Antonio, Texas.

Considered a four-star recruit by,[3] Hightower was listed as the No. 15 inside linebacker in the nation in 2008.[4] He chose Alabama over Auburn, Georgia Tech, Tennessee, and Vanderbilt.

College career[edit]

Hightower during the 2011 LSU vs. Alabama football game.
"Dont'a [Hightower] can play any position on the field. He's a freak to me."
—Alabama teammate Rolando McClain.[5]

Freshman season[edit]

Hightower attended the University of Alabama, where he played for coach Nick Saban's Alabama Crimson Tide football team from 2008 to 2011. As one of only two true freshmen to be regular starter for the Crimson Tide in 2008, Hightower started 12 games while playing in all 14 at weakside inside linebacker ("Mike") in the Alabama's 3–4 defense, next to Rolando McClain who occupied the other inside linebacker spot ("Mack"). Hightower recorded 64 tackles (4th on the team) and 2.5 tackles for loss, while also having one forced fumble and two fumble recoveries. He had at least one tackle in each game and had five or more stops in seven of 14 games, including 10 against Tulane and a career-high 11 at LSU. He was subsequently named to numerous Freshman All-American teams.[6][7][8]

Sophomore season[edit]

For the 2009 season, during the Arkansas game, Hightower suffered a knee injury in the first quarter when he was cut blocked by an Arkansas lineman. He was diagnosed a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee and missed the rest of the season with surgery.[9] True freshman Nico Johnson replaced him at weakside linebacker. Hightower recorded 16 tackles including 4 tackles for loss. Having played only four games, he was granted a medical redshirt making him a redshirt sophomore in 2010.

Redshirt sophomore and junior season[edit]

Returning for the 2010 season, Hightower was expected to "be the nucleus of a young defense".[10] He replaced McClain as Alabama’s middle linebacker,[11] and in 2011, he captained a defense that ranked No. 1 nationally in all five major categories—scoring defense (8.8 ppg), total defense (191.3 ypg), rushing defense (74.9 ypg), pass efficiency defense (83.9 ypg) and pass defense (116.3 ypg). Hightower led the team with a career-best 81 tackles, including 37 solo stops, as well as three sacks (−16 yards) and 9.5 tackles for loss (−35 yards). He also registered eight quarterback hurries, one interception, one blocked field goal and three pass breakups.

Hightower was a consensus first-team All-American by the Associated Press, AFCA and Walter Camp as well as and Pro Football Weekly. He was also a finalist for the Lombardi Award, Chuck Bednarik Award, the Butkus Award, and the Lott Trophy.

College career statistics[edit]

Correct as of 2011 college football season.[12]
Year GP–GS Tackles Sacks Pass Defense Fumbles Blocked
Solo Ast Total Loss–Yards No–Yards Int–Yards BU PD QBH Rcv–Yards FF Kick
2008 14–12 26 38 64 2.5–6 0.0–0 0–0 0 0 6 2–8 1 0
2009 4–4 5 11 16 4.0–7 1.0–4 0–0 1 1 2 0–0 0 0
2010 14–14 30 40 70 3.5–8 0.0–0 1–2 3 5 9 0 1 0
2011 13–13 40 45 85 11.0–46 4.0–26 1–29 3 4 8 0 1 1
Total 101 134 235 21.0–67 5.0–30 2–31 7 10 25 2–8 3 1

Professional career[edit]

As early as April 2011, Hightower was projected a potential first-round draft pick in the 2012 NFL Draft.[13][14] Shortly after the 2012 BCS National Championship Game, he announced his decision to forgo his final year of eligibility.[15] Right after the season ended, he was projected a late first-round selection.[16][17] After solid performances at the NFL Combine and Alabama Pro Day, he was still regarded as a late first-rounder.[18] On April 26, 2012, Hightower was selected by the New England Patriots with the 25th overall pick in the draft.[19]

Pre-draft measurables
Ht Wt Arm length Hand size 40‑yd dash 10-yd split 20-yd split 20‑ss 3‑cone Vert jump Broad
6 ft 2 14 in
(1.89 m)
265 lb
(120 kg)
32 58 in
(0.83 m)
9 34 in
(0.25 m)
4.68 s 1.66 s 2.74 s 4.64 s 7.55 s 32 in
(0.81 m)
9 ft 9 in
(2.97 m)
All values from NFL combine, except BJ, 20-SS and 3-cone, which are from Alabama Pro Day.

2012 season[edit]

On July 19, 2012, Hightower agreed to a contract with the Patriots.[20] It was reported that the deal was four years, worth $7.7 million. In his first game for the Patriots, he recovered a fumble (forced by fellow debuting rookie Chandler Jones) and returned it for a touchdown. During his rookie season in 2012, Hightower played 14 games with 60 tackles, 4 sacks, 3 passes defended, and 2 fumble recoveries. The Patriots finished the season with a 12-4 record, clinching an AFC East division title until losing to the eventual Super Bowl champions Baltimore Ravens 13-28 in the AFC Championship.

2013 season[edit]

In 2013, Hightower played all 16 games with 113 tackles, 1 sack, and 4 passes defended. The Patriots clinched another AFC East title with a 12-4 record, went to the AFC Championship again, losing to the Denver Broncos at Mile High Stadium 16-26.

2014 season[edit]

In 2014, Hightower started 12 games with 105 tackles, 6 sacks, 2 passes defended, and 1 forced fumble. The Patriots again clinched the AFC East with a 12-4 record, this time making it to Super Bowl XLIX. During the Super Bowl, Hightower stopped Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch at the 1-yard line, preventing Seattle from scoring a go-ahead touchdown with less than a minute remaining in the fourth quarter. On the very next play, teammate Malcolm Butler intercepted Russell Wilson, proving to be the final blow as the Patriots won 28-24.

2015 season[edit]

On April 30, 2015, the Patriots picked up the fifth-year, $7.751 million option of Hightower's contract.[21] Through the season's first 11 games, over which the Patriots went 10-1, Hightower racked up 55 tackles and 3.5 sacks.[22] He left the November 29 game against the Denver Broncos, won by the Broncos, 30-24, with what was reported to be a sprained MCL in his left knee.[23] Overall in 2015, Hightower played 12 games with 61 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 2 passes defended, and 1 fumble recovery. The Patriots clinched another AFC East title with a 12-4 record and had a rematch with the Broncos in the AFC Championship, but lost to the eventual Super Bowl champions by a score of 18-20.

2016 season[edit]

With the retirement of Jerod Mayo, Hightower was named one of the team captains for the 2016 season. In the Week 6 matchup against the Cincinnati Bengals, Hightower registered 13 tackles, 2 quarterback hits, and 1.5 sacks including a safety on quarterback Andy Dalton and was named AFC Defensive Player of the Week. Hightower was named to his first Pro Bowl on December 20 and was also named second-team All-Pro.[24][25] He was also ranked 94th on the NFL Top 100 Players of 2017.[26]

Hightower contributed to the Patriots 14-2 record and top-seed in the AFC playoffs.

On February 5, 2017, Hightower was part of the Patriots team that won Super Bowl LI. The Patriots trailed 28–3 in the third quarter, but rallied all the way back to win the game 34-28 against the Atlanta Falcons in overtime. The Super Bowl featured both the first overtime game and the largest comeback in Super Bowl history. Hightower recorded two tackles, one sack, and forced a fumble that gave the Patriots the ball at the 25-yard line, this proved to be the turning point in the game, as it allowed New England to cut the Falcons' lead to eight points five plays after the fumble.[27][28]

2017 season[edit]

On March 15, 2017, after mulling offers from the New York Jets, Pittsburgh Steelers, and Patriots, Hightower signed a four-year, $35.5 million contract to return to the Patriots.[29][30]

Regular season statistics[edit]

2012 NE 14 60 43 17 4.0 0 3
2013 NE 16 113 65 48 1.0 0 3
2014 NE 12 105 61 44 6.0 0 2
2015 NE 12 61 51 10 3.5 0 2
2016 NE 13 65 31 34 2.5 1 2
Total 67 372 231 141 17.0 1 12



  1. ^ "ESPN Profile". 
  2. ^ a b Porter, Yancy (March 19, 2007). "Dont'a Hightower's recruiting profile". 
  3. ^ Dont'a Hightower Recruiting Profile
  4. ^ inside linebackers 2008
  5. ^ Cooper, Josh (April 5, 2009). "Saban finally has experienced linebackers". The Anniston Star. [permanent dead link]
  6. ^ "AON Insurance/FWAA Freshman All-America Team". FWAA. 2009-01-08. 
  7. ^ Cirminiello, Richard (December 11, 2008). "2008 CFN All-Freshman Second & HM Teams". College Football News. 
  8. ^ " 2008 Freshman All-America teams". 2008-12-17. Archived from the original on 2009-06-04. 
  9. ^ "Hightower out for the season with knee injury". September 28, 2009. 
  10. ^ Kausler, Don, Jr. (November 16, 2009). "Alabama analysis: 2010 defense will have a tough act to follow, but the talent will be there". The Birmingham News. 
  11. ^ Low, Chris (August 11, 2010). "Hybrid role suits Tide's Hightower just fine". 
  12. ^ "Cumulative Season Statistics". University of Alabama Athletic Department. Archived from the original on 2011-09-24. Retrieved 2012-04-06. 
  13. ^ Pauline, Tony (May 3, 2011). "Stanford's Luck headlines early look at top 2012 draft prospects". Sports Illustrated. 
  14. ^ Reuter, Chad (May 4, 2011). "2012 mock draft: First look with Luck and Heels". 
  15. ^ "Alabama's Trent Richardson, two teammates to enter NFL draft". USA Today. January 12, 2012. 
  16. ^ "2012 NFL Mock Draft: Post-BCS Championship Game version". CNN. January 10, 2012. 
  17. ^ "Andrew Luck tops pre-Super Bowl NFL mock draft". CNN. January 27, 2012. 
  18. ^ "2012 NFL Mock Draft 3.0". CNN. March 23, 2012. 
  19. ^ Patriots trade up again, land Dont’a Hightower-NBC Sports Retrieved 24 August 2012.
  20. ^ Patriots sign LB Hightower-ESPN Retrieved 24 August 2012.
  21. ^ Reiss, Mike (April 30, 2015). "Chandler Jones, Dont'a Hightower have fifth-year options picked up by Patriots". Retrieved November 23, 2015. 
  22. ^ Yahoo Sports
  23. ^ Boston Globe
  24. ^ "NFL announces 2017 Pro Bowl rosters". December 20, 2016. 
  25. ^ "Three rookies, Matt Ryan among players named to All-Pro team". January 6, 2017. 
  26. ^ NFL Top 100 Players of 2017 - No. 94 Dont'a Hightower
  27. ^ Wesseling, Chris. "New England Patriots win Super Bowl LI". NFL. Retrieved February 5, 2017. 
  28. ^ "Super Bowl LI - National Football League Game Summary" (PDF). National Football League. Retrieved 6 August 2017. 
  29. ^ "Dont'a Hightower to sign four-year deal with Patriots". 
  30. ^ "Patriots re-sign LB Dont'a Hightower". March 16, 2017. 
  31. ^ "Dont'a Hightower". New England Patriots. Archived from the original on 1 January 2014. Retrieved 31 December 2013. 

External links[edit]