STACK followed dozens of the NFL’s top prospects as they hit the gym to get ready for the NFL Combine and beyond. In our Path to the Pros video series, we show you how these world-class athletes trained for the next level. In this edition, we profile the leader of the Alabama Crimson Tide defense, linebacker Dont’a Hightower.
Four players from Alabama’s national championship defensive unit look like solid locks for the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft. But although Courtney Upshaw, Dre Kirkpatrick and Mark Barron are highly sought-after as defensive playmakers, the on-field leadership of middle linebacker Dont’a Hightower is what consistently put his teammates in position to make plays.
As the team captain and ringleader of the Crimson Tide’s vaunted 3-4 D, Hightower was responsible for calling plays, reading the offense, and adjusting the defensive front and coverage schemes accordingly. It’s an aspect of the game he prides himself on. “My ability to diagnose plays quickly, as far as reading the offensive linemen, reading the quarterback’s eyes, getting the feeling of what the offensive coordinator likes to do, I feel like that’s a strong point in my game,” Hightower says.
The 6’2”, 265-pound consensus All-American is not limited to calling plays; he gets his helmet in on many of them, and he is especially passionate about stopping the run. He says, “I’m a big guy, but I’ve got a lot of speed and power. [At the next level,] I’m definitely going to be a hard hitter, physical, determined. That’s definitely going to be something you’ll look forward to when the game comes on.”
Between the risers and fallers in this year’s Draft, Hightower is one prospect who seems firmly planted as a late first-round pick. Look for a team running a 3-4 front to make him their next defensive signal-caller.