Hightower soars in NFL debut

Wednesday, September 12, 2012
Dont'a Hightower (54) cradles the football after scoring a touchdown on a 6-yard fumble return in the second quarter of the Patriots' 34-13 win over the Titans Sunday at LP Field in Nashville. Photos by Anthony S. Puca

Defensive star even scores a touchdown

To share in other people's dreams is a beautiful thing and that was the case on a gorgeous Sunday afternoon at LP Field in Nashville as Lewisburg native Dont'a Hightower made his NFL debut versus the Titans.

Hightower was magnificent, starting the ballgame at linebacker for the Patriots.

Instant impact

MCHS graduate Dont'a Hightower (54) takes off in pursuit of Titans' quarterback Jake Locker (10) on the first play from scrimmage.

Hightower wasted no time making his mark on the first offensive play from scrimmage for Tennessee, coming up with the first tackle of the ballgame when he chased down Titans' quarterback Jake Locker on the sideline.

Four plays later, Hightower zeroed in on Titans' pre-season hero Darius Reynaud and swallowed him up for just a four-yard gain after a catch out of the backfield.

But, the most exciting moment and one that will live forever in the hearts of the hundreds of local fans in attendance and the thousands more watching on T.V. happened early in the second quarter, one play after Hightower tackled Titans running back Chris Johnson in the backfield for a three-yard loss.

Lewisburg native Dont'a Hightower (54) comes out of the tunnel at LP Field to start his NFL career.

TD play

Fellow rookie and first-round draft choice Chandler Jones busted through the Titans offensive line and stripped Locker of the ball, and there was Hightower, who scooped up the ball at the six-yard line and rumbled into the end zone for a touchdown that busted the game open.

"Those two guys probably made one of the biggest plays of the day, the strip sack and the touchdown," defensive captain Vince Wilfork said after the game.

Wilfork added, "Those young guys, in their first career NFL football game, they'll probably make 'SportsCenter.' So, good for them. That was a great heads-up play by both of them. That put our team in a good situation."

Good stats

They did make SportsCenter and the Patriots were in control after Hightower's touchdown and went on to win big 34-13.

Hightower was under head coach Bill Belichick's restrictions on rookies talking to media after the contest, but in his post-game press conference, he did comment on Jones and Hightower.

"We'll see how it looks on the film," said Belichick. "I am sure they had some good plays and I am sure they had some plays that weren't so good. They have a long way to go, but they have done a good job for us and if they keep working hard I think they have a chance to be good players for this team."

Dont'a Hightower (54) is all smiles as he talks about his touchdown with Titans rookie defensive tackle and good friend DaJohn Harris (96) after the ballgame.

Hightower would end up with four solo tackles and one assist in the contest.

Exciting time

Patriots' cornerback Devin McCourty was a lot more upbeat about the big play by Jones and Hightower when he said, "We knew those guys would be prepared. They have been working so hard this pre-season. Those guys have been working their tails off to make big plays and to actually see it come together on the same play, I know they were both excited."

It was a boyhood dream that came true for Hightower, who will certainly go on to have outstanding NFL career and it could not have been better for all of his fans that were there to share it with him and to see it come to fruition.