“He won at every level he ever played …”
“… One of the rarest of players that I have ever coached.”
After Dont’a Hightower made his retirement from the NFL official Tuesday, the New England Patriots issued a pair of statements Wednesday on the former linebacker, whose decade of fingerprints on the franchise remain visible.
The 2012 first-round draft choice out of Alabama’s run began as a two-time BCS national champion and Crimson Tide captain. It ended as three-time Super Bowl champion and Patriots captain with roster spots on the All-Decade and All-Dynasty teams in Foxborough.
“Dont’a’s blend of intelligence, positional versatility and physicality made him one of the rarest of players that I have ever coached,” Patriots head coach Bill Belichick’s statement read. “Very few players were capable of as much as Dont’a, who could win from multiple positions with power, athleticism and his mind. His skills were most evident in two of the all-time great plays in franchise history, which led directly to two Super Bowl championships, but date back to the start of his decorated college and NFL careers.
“As a rookie, it was clear that Dont’a was already a mature, highly-competitive player who could make an immediate impact, which he did in his first game and consistently over the course of a decade.”
Hightower, who turned 33 this March, played his last snaps with the Patriots in 2021 before staying a free agent for all of 2022. Across 117 games in the regular season, he totaled 569 tackles, 27 sacks, one safety, one interception, five fumble recoveries, two forced fumbles and two touchdowns. Across 17 games in the postseason, he added 81 tackles, three sacks, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery and one interception.
And in the most pivotal moments.
“Dont’a Hightower is a champion,” Patriots owner Robert Kraft said. “He won at every level he ever played and always excelled in championship games. He helped the Patriots win three Super Bowls after winning two national championships at Alabama to become just the second player to win multiple championships at each level. He was a versatile linebacker whose game-altering plays in each of our Super Bowls earned him the moniker ‘Mr. February.’
“Some of his greatest performances came on our biggest stage, including a crucial goal-line tackle against Seattle in Super Bowl XLIX, his strip-sack against Atlanta two years later that sparked the biggest comeback in Super Bowl history, and a two-sack performance that was part of a stifling defense which held the explosive L.A. Rams to just three points in Super Bowl LIII. I congratulate Dont’a on a tremendous career. We are honored to call Dont’a a Patriot and will always celebrate him as a champion.”
Hightower logged one second-team All-Pro selection and two Pro Bowl selections during his New England tenure.