Dont’a Hightower welcomes chance to return to Patriots as coach


“Those guys know how I was as a player and kind of like what was expected whenever I was there.”

Dont’a Hightower is already back in Foxborough, this time as a coach. (AP Photo/Matt Patterson)

FOXBOROUGH — It only took one year for Dont’a Hightower to find his way back to Foxborough. 

After officially hanging up his spikes in March 2023, the three-time Super Bowl champion and All-Pro linebacker found himself back in New England as the linebackers coach on Jerod Mayo’s staff. 

It didn’t take very long for Hightower to get the coaching itch, especially after following along with the 2023 Patriots from afar. 

“No cap. I missed it. … I know my wife was really adamant about me getting out [of the house], like you need to go to the bar, you need to go somewhere else and watch the game,” Hightower said Wednesday before the Patriots’ latest OTA practice. “So I enjoyed it. 

“Again, I was still at home texting (Ja’Whaun Bentley), (Elandon Roberts), (Raekwon McMillan), and everybody throughout the game —  like, ‘What are you doing out here?’ It’s good. I guess I’ve kind of been doing it for a long time.”

Hightower, much like Mayo, believes that his track record on the gridiron and his age (34) will allow him to relate with New England’s linebackers — several of whom played with him over the final years of his playing career. 

“It’s been great. I think it’s cool that I can be able to relate and talk to those guys. … So it’s been good to be able to talk film with those guys,” Hightower said of his adjusting to his new role as a coach. “Kind of reminds me of the old days and stuff, but it’s been cool.  Those guys are real coachable. I know those guys in and out, know them personally. So again, it’s just made the transition a lot easier for me.”

This might be Hightower’s first coaching gig after wrapping up his impressive playing career, but his familiarity with New England and the personnel on the Patriots’ linebacker corps has made the transition seamless out of the gate.  

“Made it a lot more comfortable for me to get up in front of the room and to talk ball with those guys,” Hightower said of speaking to the team’s current group of linebackers. “As far as the communication goes, I think that’d be easy. And they know me, and I know them.

“So I don’t think it’ll be any miscommunication or anything like that. And again, those guys know how I was as a player and kind of like what was expected whenever I was there. Now those guys — they got the keys now.”

For all of the woes that hampered the 2023 Patriots, almost all of them were on the offensive side of the ball.

New England’s defense should continue to be a strength on this roster, especially with key cogs like Matt Judon and Christian Gonzalez returning from injury.

The Patriots are once again expected to be led at linebacker by Bentley, Jahlani Tavai, and Jennings — while free-agent pickup Sione Takitaki is expected to serve as an athletic coverage option.

Training camp might still be months away, but Hightower likes what he has seen so far from this group. 

“Those guys, it makes me proud that that’s my first room as being a coach,” Hightower said. “That room is everything I would want it to be and more. They work hard, they push each other. They’re constantly questioning each other. Like it’s always a competition. 

“So whenever you’ve got guys that want to learn and want to be good and they’re pushing each other every day — it makes it really hard to find anything to argue about.”

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