For ten seasons, veteran linebacker Dont’a Hightower was a fixture with the New England Patriots. Voted four times team captain by his teammates, he has long cemented his place among New England’s great defenders.
When recently asked which current Patriots defensemen could follow in his footsteps, coach Bill Belichick replied, “It’s a stretch to compare anyone to Hightower… We’re talking about one of the best linebackers to ever play here .”
After spending the 2022 season away from the football field, Hightower officially announced his retirement on Tuesday. He wrote one in the Player’s Tribune warm farewell textin which he announced his decision.
3x Super Bowl Champion LB Dont’a Hightower announces his retirement after 11 years in the NFL. pic.twitter.com/wXGI9nfucT
— NFL (@NFL) March 21, 2023
“Today I am officially retiring from the NFL,” he wrote. “I know announcements like this always feel bittersweet, but I can’t think of a better story than the one I wrote in New England. A decade, three Super Bowls, two Pro Bowls and the birth of my son – and all of it , while playing for a single franchise. How many guys have a story like that?”
Dont’a Hightower has been with the Pats continuously since 2012
Hightower has been an integral part of the Patriots defense since arriving in 2012, when the University of Alabama alumnus was selected by the Patriots in the first round of the draft (ranked 25th). In addition to being a prolific linebacker, he was also a director on the field, alongside recently retired team captain Devin McCourty. He was also one of the most respected leaders in the Patriots dressing room.
While in New England, Hightower was selected to the second All-Pro team in 2016, was also named to the Pro Bowl twice (2016, 2019) and was named to both the New England Patriots All-2010s Team and the All- Dynasty Team of the Franchise chosen.
Aside from his numerous accomplishments on the field, Hightower’s legendary status is largely due to his postseason performances. He played a key role on each of the Patriots’ three Super Bowl championship teams (XLIX, LI, LIII) in the 2010s – arguably his most famous moment was a second-half strip sack against Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, with which he initiated an unlikely 34:28 comeback in Super Bowl LI.
Hightower’s NFL record: 650 tackles in 134 games
After a year-long hiatus in 2020 (per COVID-19 opt-out), Hightower returned to resume his role as team leader and solid presence at the center of New England’s defense. He appeared in 16 of a possible 18 games and was on the field for 59.8 percent of the Patriots’ defensive snaps. Despite some difficulties throughout the season, Hightower showed he still has the ability to be an effective player, finishing the season with 64 tackles and 1.5 sacks, primarily playing in early downs and against the run defended.
Now, Hightower has decided that his journey in professional football has come to an end. He played in 134 games in the regular season and playoffs, totaling 650 tackles, 30 sacks, six fumble recoveries and two interceptions. The indelible mark he leaves on the only pro franchise he has played for will surely earn him a place in the Patriots Hall of Fame in due course.
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