30 Days Away from Bama Kickoff: Dont’a Hightower
Each day counting down to Alabama's Week 1 matchup with Utah State, I will highlight one former player whose jersey number coincides with the amount of days until the game. The Crimson Tide takes the field in 30 days, so let's look at the career of a legendary Bama linebacker, Dont'a Hightower.
Dont'a Hightower, like several other players on this list, was a member of Nick Saban's heralded 2008 recruiting class. He helped create what would become the standard for Alabama's defense under Saban, and was a key piece of kicking off a dynasty that is still going strong today.
Hightower was a four-star recruit from Lewisburg, TN and was ranked as the fifth best player in the state, per 247Sports. He put together a fantastic senior season at Marshall County High School, finishing with 168 tackles, five forced fumbles and five interceptions. Hightower was named Tennessee's 3A Mr. Football Lineman of the Year and the Tennessean's Defensive Most Valuable Player.
As a freshman in 2008, the highly touted recruit made the move from defensive end to linebacker and started 12 games for the Crimson Tide. Hightower finished fourth on the team in tackles (64) and was named a Freshman All-American by multiple outlets.
In his second season, Hightower began as the starter once more before a torn ACL sidelined him just four games into the year. He missed the rest of Alabama's championship season, but was granted a medical redshirt and returned for 2010 as a redshirt sophomore.
2010 saw the linebacker takeover for Rolando McClain after he departed for the NFL, and lead a fierce Crimson Tide defense. Though the season ended in ultimate disappointment, Hightower captained a unit that finished top-five in both yards and points allowed per game.
The Lewisburg native returned for his senior season and once again lead a suffocating Alabama defense. Hightower finished the year with 85 tackles, 11.0 TFL's, 4.0 sacks and an interception. The Tide allowed less than 10 points and 200 yards per game and won the National Championship, avenging a regular season loss to LSU and downing the Tigers, 21-0.
Hightower was drafted in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft to the New England Patriots and has spent 10 incredible seasons as the leader of Bill Belichick's defense.
He was named a day-one starter as a rookie and has since compiled 569 tackles, 43.0 TFL's and 27.0 sacks, not to mention he is a three-time Super Bowl Champion, two-time Pro Bowler and a member of the Patriots' 2010's All-Decade team.
As of now, Hightower is a free agent looking for an NFL home after he did not re-sign with New England following the 2021 season. At 32-years old, the veteran linebacker's best playing days are likely behind him, but the Bama legend could provide some depth to a needy team.