Crimson Tide rolled with one of our own

Friday, January 13, 2012

By Anthony S. Puca

Sports Writer

Anyone who watched Monday night's BCS championship game was awestruck at the suffocating effort turned in by former MCHS great Dont'a Hightower and his Alabama Crimson Tide defensive cohorts as they held undefeated and No. 1 LSU to five first downs, 93 total yards on offense, and just one trip into Alabama territory during the 21-0 blanking over the Tigers, marking the first ever shutout in any BCS Bowl game.

Hightower, who captained the nation's number one defensive unit for the second consecutive year, was probably more fired up to play the game in New Orleans Monday night than any other member of the Crimson Tide.

After suffering an ACL injury early in the 2009 season, Hightower had to watch from the sidelines two years ago when Alabama beat Texas in the championship game.

In an interview with USA Today's Erick Smith on Saturday, Hightower said, "It's definitely one of the reasons why I wanted to come back. I can't wait. I can't explain my emotions right now. I'm shaky right now talking about this. I couldn't even sleep on the plane. It means a lot to me. I didn't get to play two years ago in Pasadena. To be back now, there's nothing left for me to do, but leave it out on the field."

Leave it on the field he did, coming up with a huge sack that resulted in a fumble recovery near the end of a game in which it seemed like the 2007 Class 3A Tennessee Titans Mr. Football Lineman of the Year was all over the field from start to finish.

Hightower finished the game with four tackles, the one sack and forced fumble and an ever increasing rise up the NFL draft board if he so chooses to enter.

Alabama defensive lineman Damion Square (92) and linebacker Dont'a Hightower (30) bring down LSU quarterback Jordan Jefferson (9) in the BCS Championship Game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, Monday, Jan. 9, 2012. (The Birmingham News/Mark Almond)

As the Jan. 15 deadline approaches for early draft entry notification with the NFL all indications point to the redshirt junior putting his name in the hopper and beginning work on another chapter in his boyhood quest to play on TV on Saturday and Sunday.

Most draft pundits project the chiseled 6'4"/ 260-pound consensus All-American as one of the top three to five linebackers in the mix and predict he will be plucked off the big board midway through the first round of the April 27 draft to be televised on ESPN.

My prediction is Hightower could be drafted by the Buffalo Bills at number 10, Philadelphia Eagles (15), New York Jets (16), Pittsburg Steelers (21), or the New York Giants.

All need a dominating middle linebacker, but I think Hightower's teammate Courtney Upshaw will go to Buffalo and the Eagles will take the finalist for the Lombardi Award, Butkus Award, Chuck Bednarik Award, and the Lott Trophy with the 15th pick.

It does not seem that long ago watching Hightower deliver devastating blows from his middle linebacker spot at Preston Hopkins Field in Lewisburg for the MCHS Tigers, or his start as a freshman at Alabama.

Then we all suffered with him as he was injured in his sophomore year, but anyone who knew Hightower was certain that he would return to full form, and he did!

It all culminated in jumping up and down with total delight when he creamed LSU quarterback Jordan Jefferson at the end of the BCS title game on Monday and now, the green and silver of my beloved Philadelphia Eagles looks like a great place for me to watch one of my heroes for years to come.

Alabama linebacker Dont'a Hightower (30) strips the ball from LSU quarterback Jordan Jefferson (9) on a fouth-down play in the fourth quarter of the BCS Championship Game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, Monday, Jan. 9, 2012. (The Birmingham News/Mark Almond)

Just a dream, but Dont'a has reinforced in me that all of our dreams can come true.