Friday, January 30, 2015
Dont'a Hightower will be playing in his seventh playoff game when the Patriots take on the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX Sunday in Phoenix. Tribune photo by Anthony S. Puca

Hightower primed for Super Bowl challenge

Dont'a Hightower is a Bill Belichick kind of guy.

No-nonsense, hardworking, and wired with a will to win.

Hightower's rise to excellence started at a young age, carrying him to a storied gridiron career at Marshall County High School, two times a national champion at Alabama with Nick Saban, and an NFL first-round draft choice by the New England Patriots in 2012.

Quest for excellence

The man in the gray hoodie knew what he was doing, Hightower's commitment to excellence was perfect for the New England brand of football Belichick has sculpted into six-time Super Bowl participants and three-time NFL champions.

"It's everybody doing their job and everybody being dedicated and buying into what everybody believes in here, typical do your job has kinda been what we have lived on," said Hightower at the Patriots Super Bowl Media Day on Wednesday.

"Everybody has done their job, so that's why we have had so much success this year."

Hightower started as a rookie, playing in 42 regular season games and six playoff games in three seasons for the Pats, and now the all-time great Tiger linebacker that roamed Preston Hopkins Field in Lewisburg will go eye-to-eye with the beast, the Seattle Seahawk's Marshawn Lynch.

In the dessert, in what could be the most viewed TV event in the world, in the Super Bowl!

Living a dream

"It' like a dream come true, I've been dreaming about this moment ever since I played football, everybody wants to play in the Super Bowl," said Hightower.

"I am finally getting the opportunity to go showcase my abilities, so I am looking forward to it."

It's no surprise Hightower is in the middle of it all, calling the signals from his linebacker spot for the Patriots defense that has its hands full in Super Bowl XLIX, containing Lynch, probably the hardest running back to tackle in the NFL.

Lynch rushed for 1,306 yards in the regular season, averaging 4.7 yards per carry, while scoring 13 touchdowns.

"You don't really see a lot of guys with the running style the way that he has and to be as big as he is and move the way he does," said Hightower. "He has great feet, good balance, great vision, he is just a unique back."

In two playoff games this season, Lynch has 216 yards on 25 carries and one touchdown.

Lewisburg's Dont'a Hightower (54) has his sights set on Indianapolis Colts running back Zurlon Tipton (37) in the AFC Championship game. Photo courtesy of New England Patriots

Tough foes

The Seahawks offense also has one of the best young quarterbacks in Russell Wilson, who has a 10-0 career record versus Super Bowl quarterbacks as a third-year starter.

Wilson is a prolific passer and just as dangerous in the open field as a runner out of the read option.

"I have so much respect for him, he is one of the biggest competitors you can see, especially in the NFC championship, in the end how he competed, how he started out and how he finished you could tell how big of a competitor he is," said Hightower.

The Patriots are looking for their fourth Lombardi trophy Sunday at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Arizona and Hightower and his defensive cohorts will be ready.

"I know my job and I'm very confident that all the 10 other guys up there know their job as well, so will just have to handle it and see what comes up on Sunday," said Hightower.

Asked about a prediction for the game, Hightower said, "I'm predicting the Patriots win, it doesn't matter the score, the Patriots win."