After spending the 2022 season away from football, former New England Patriots linebacker Dont’a Hightower has made it official: he is retiring from the NFL.
A former first-round draft pick by the Patriots out of the University of Alabama, Hightower published a farewell story in the Players Tribune to let the world know about his decision.
“Today, I am officially retiring from the NFL,” he wrote. “I know these announcements 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 — all playing for one franchise. How many guys have a story like that?”
The 25th overall selection in the 2012 draft, Hightower made in immediate impact on the Patriots defense — quite literally: he scored a defensive touchdown on a fumble return in his first regular season game. It was a sign of things to come.
Over the next decade, Hightower became a cornerstone of the Patriots defense. A multi-year captain and defensive signal caller, he was one of the unit’s cornerstones alongside safety Devin McCourty. As such, he appeared in a combined 134 regular season and playoff games, and registered 650 combined tackles as well as 30 sacks, six fumble recoveries, and two interceptions.
His biggest plays came on the biggest stage, earning him the nickname of “Mr. February.” The 33-year-old appeared in three Super Bowls for the Patriots, helping the team win all three of them.
“Sometimes it’s still unreal to think about…. I am a three-time Super Bowl champion,” Hightower wrote. “Pretty good for a kid from Lewisburg, Tennessee.”