Hightower returns to Patriots as linebackers coach

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – First-year New England Patriots head coach Jerod Mayo is turning to an old teammate to fill a void on his coaching staff, hiring Dont’a Hightower to work with the team’s linebackers.

Hightower brings championship pedigree to his first coaching job, having won two national championships at Alabama, and three Super Bowl championships with New England.

He played for the Patriots from 2012-2019, and after opting out of the 2020 season because of the COVID-19 pandemic, returned to play one final season in 2021. He was selected by the Patriots in the first round of the 2012 draft and had earned the nickname “Mr. February” from former head coach Bill Belichick because of his clutch play in Super Bowls.

Mayo had foreshadowed the possibility of hiring Hightower last year, saying that if he ever became a head coach, he would attempt to recruit Hightower to his staff. Mayo and Hightower were teammates in New England from 2012-2015, and Mayo was an assistant coach on staff for Hightower’s final two seasons with the club.

“He would be a phenomenal coach,” Mayo said at the time.

Belichick had also said: “Dont’a’s blend of intelligence, positional versatility and physicality made him one of the rarest of players that I have ever coached.”

Hightower will work under first-year defensive coordinator DeMarcus Covington, who has served as the team’s defensive line coach the previous four seasons. Former Packers defensive line coach Jerry Montgomery was hired to work with New England’s defensive line, while cornerbacks coach Mike Pellegrino and safeties coach Brian Belichick are returning in 2024.

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