Dont'a Hightower was re-signed by the New England Patriots as an unrestricted free agent on March 16, 2017 ... Originally drafted by New England in the first round (25th overall) of the 2012 NFL Draft.
- Has accrued two Super-Bowl altering plays during his career:
- In Super Bowl XLIX vs. Seattle, Hightower made a crucial tackle on Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch at the 1-yard line the play before CB Malcolm Butler intercepted Seattle QB Russell Wilson to seal victory in the waning moments.
- New England trailed the Atlanta Falcons, 28-12, midway through the fourth quarter when Hightower strip-sacked Falcons QB Matt Ryan at the Atlanta 25-yard line. The fumble was recovered by the Patriots and the turnover led to a touchdown that helped spark the record comeback in Super Bowl LI.
2016 (13/13, 3/3)
- Named a co-captain for the first time.
- Selected to his first career Pro Bowl.
- Started all 13 regular-season games he played in and registered 65 tackles, 2.5 sacks, two passes defensed, a forced fumble and one safety.
- Started all three playoff contests and totaled 13 tackles, one sack and one forced fumble.
- Was inactive due to injury vs. Miami (9/18), vs. Houston (9/22) and vs. N.Y. Jets (12/24).
- Notched two double-digit tackle games in 2016:
- Week 6 vs. Cincinnati (13 tackles)
- Week 10 vs. Seattle (10 tackles)
- Sacked QB Andy Dalton in the end zone for an 8-yard safety in the win vs. Cincinnati (10/16). Also led the team with 13 total tackles and was Named AFC Defensive Player of the Week for his Week 6 performance.
- Finished with a team-leading 10 total tackles to mark his 15th career 10-plus tackle game vs. Seattle (11/13).
- Led the team with eight total tackles in the Divisional Round victory vs. Houston (1/14).
- Totaled two tackles and had a key third-down strip-sack of Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan with less than 10 minutes to play in regulation of Super Bowl LI (2/5) that led to a Patriots scoring drive that cut the team's deficit to one possession and aided their 25-point comeback victory.
2015 (12/12, 2/2)
- Started all 12 regular-season games he played in and recorded 62 tackles, 3½ sacks, two passes defensed and one fumble recovery.
- Started both postseason contests and registered 12 tackles, two passes defensed and one fumble recovery.
- Was inactive for four games due to injury.
- Posted a season-high 13 tackles and a half-sack at Buffalo (9/20).
- Recorded four tackles and a nine-yard sack on Brandon Weeden in the win at Dallas (10/11), before leaving the game with an injury.
- Returned to action after missing the previous game due to injury and finished with 10 solo tackles and recovered a fumble after Chandler Jones strip-sacked Ryan Fitzpatrick in the first quarter of the win vs. the New York Jets (10/25).
- Recorded three tackles before leaving the game with a knee injury in the second quarter at Denver (11/29).
- Returned to action after missing two games with an injury and recorded two tackles and one pass defensed, before leaving the game in the third quarter with a knee injury in the win vs. Tennessee (12/20).
2014 (12/12, 3/3)
- Started all 12 regular-season games he played in and finished second on the team with 92 tackles, a career high six sacks, two passes defensed and one forced fumble. Took over the defensive communication role after Jerod Mayo was lost for the season due to injury in October.
- Started all three playoff games and compiled 16 tackles.
- Was inactive vs. Cincinnati (10/5), at Buffalo (10/12), at San Diego (12/7) and vs. Buffalo (12/28) due to injury.
- Recorded his first career two-sack game in the win at Minnesota (9/14), taking down Matt Cassel twice for a total loss of 22 yards. Also posted eight tackles.
- Returned from injury to start at linebacker and play every defensive snap in the win vs. N.Y. Jets (10/16), finishing with a season-high 13 tackles and one sack.
- Posted 10 tackles, including three for losses, and one sack for a loss of nine yards at Green Bay (11/30).
- Returned from injury to start at linebacker and played every defensive snap in the win vs. Miami (12/14), finishing with eight tackles, a half-sack and his first career forced fumble.
- Played every defensive snap and led the team with 11 tackles and one sack for a 10-yard loss in the win at N.Y. Jets (12/21).
- Posted eight tackles, including two for losses, in the AFC Divisional win vs. Baltimore (1/10).
- Started at linebacker and played every defensive snap in the Super Bowl XLIX win vs. Seattle (2/1), finishing with five tackles. Stopped Marshawn Lynch at the 1-yard line with one minute left to play in the game, preventing a go-ahead touchdown. Malcolm Butler intercepted Russell Wilson on the next play to seal the 28-24 win.
2013 (16/14, 2/2)
- Played in all 16 regular-season games with 14 starts and led the team with 137 tackles, one sack and three passes defensed.
- Finished first on the team with seven double-digit tackle performances.
- Started both playoff games and compiled 16 tackles and his first career interception.
- Took over defensive play-calling duties after Jerod Mayo was placed on injured reserve.
- Registered a career-high 16 tackles at N.Y. Jets (10/20).
- Posted 10 stops vs. Miami (10/27). Also registered his first sack of the season, a 9-yard loss on third down that led to a missed field goal.
- Achieved double-digit tackle totals for the fifth time, with 14 tackles vs. Cleveland (12/8). Eclipsed 100 tackles on the season for the first time.
- Posted six tackles at Baltimore (12/22) and defensed a first quarter pass that was intercepted by teammate Logan Ryan and led to a Patriots touchdown.
- Led the defense with eight tackles and made his first career interception in the Divisional Playoff vs. Indanapolis (1/11).
2012 (14/13, 2/2)
- Earned the starting linebacker job out of training camp and went on to appear in 14 games with 13 starts, compiling 75 tackles, four sacks, three passes defensed and two fumble recoveries - one of which he returned for a touchdown in his first NFL game.
- Started both playoff games and accumulated six tackles.
- Finished with four tackles and a key third-quarter fumble recovery on the Patriots' goal line to preserve the shutout in the win vs. Miami (12/30).
- Compiled seven tackles and a key third-down sack in the fourth quarter of the win at Jacksonville (12/23).
- Tallied a career-high 10 tackles and defensed one pass vs. San Francisco (12/16).
- Started at linebacker in his first NFL game and returned a fumble caused by a Chandler Jones strip-sack deep in Tennessee territory six yards for a touchdown in the season-opening win at Tennessee (9/9). Also made five tackles including one for a loss.
- Was inactive due to injury at Seattle (10/14) and vs. Denver (10/7).
- Was one of two true freshmen to start for the Crimson Tide in 2008 and earned Freshman All-American honors, as he finished fourth on the team with 64 tackles (26 solos) with 2.5 stops for loss, a pair of fumble recoveries and one forced fumble.
- Granted a medical redshirt in 2009 after being limited to just four games due to a knee injury.
- Hightower started 42-of-44 games at Alabama – 26 at weak-side linebacker and 16 at middle linebacker.
- Recorded 234 tackles (101 solos), including five sacks for minus 30 yards, 21.0 stops for losses of 67 yards and 25 quarterback pressures. Also had a pair of forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, seven pass deflections, a 29-yard interception return and a blocked kick.
- A finalist for the Chuck Bednarik, Butkus and Lombardi Awards, Hightower was a consensus All-American and unanimous All-SEC first-team selection in 2011.
HONORS AND AWARDS
- Pro Bowl
- Associated Press All-Pro Second Team
- PFWA, All-AFC Team
- AFC Defensive Player of the Week (Week 6)
- Hightower first drew recognition his sophomore year of high school 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. After growing to 6 ft 2 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 TE, he caught 18 passes for 253 yards and four touchdowns. 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 Defensive Most Valuable Player in 2007.
- Born Qualin Dont'a Hightower on March 12, 1990.
- Majored in general studies at Alabama.