Former Patriots LB Dont'a Hightower announces retirement

Andrew Callahan, Boston Herald on

Published in Football

Former Patriots linebacker Dont’a Hightower didn’t play last season, and he won’t be playing any NFL football moving forward.

On Tuesday, Hightower officially announced his retirement after playing nine seasons in New England. The 33-year-old shared his news in an article he published on The Players’ Tribune.

“They say time flies in this league. Boy, they’re not lying. Today, I am officially retiring from the NFL,” Hightower wrote in the article. “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?”

Hightower played in 117 regular-season games with the Patriots, who selected him in the first round of the 2012 draft. He quickly proved to be an impact player in the middle of Bill Belichick’s defense with 13 starts as a rookie and a Super Bowl win in his third year. That season, Hightower famously stopped Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch on the play before Malcolm Butler’s goal-line interception in Super Bowl XLIX.

Two years later, Hightower strip-sacked Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl LI, during which the Patriots completed the largest comeback in Super Bowl history. In his final championship appearance, Hightower tallied two sacks, three QB hits and a pass deflection during the Pats’ 13-3 win over the Rams in Super Bowl LIII.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick later nicknamed him “Mr. February,” a nod to his consistently excellent Super Bowl performances. After the 2018 Super Bowl campaign, Hightower earned his second and final Pro Bowl honor while leading the NFL’s top-ranked defense. In his penultimate season, he posted 71 tackles, 5.5 sacks and four pass breakups.


Hightower then opted to sit out the 2020 season due to concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic and returned in 2021. Starting 15 games, he recorded 64 stops, 1.5 sacks and a single pass deflection. His contract expired months later, and he returned to his native Tennessee.

“Sometimes it’s still unreal to think about. ... I am a three-time Super Bowl champion. Pretty good for a kid from Lewisburg, Tennessee,” Hightower wrote. “I appreciate everyone who helped me make this dream come true. But I especially want to thank my mom. None of this happens without her. Now that I got my own 40-pound two-year-old running around the house like a little wrecking ball, I don’t know how you held it down for us all by yourself.

“I just want to say thank you for helping me live my dream. To you, to my beautiful wife, Morgan, to all my coaches, my teammates, my mentors, my teachers, my friends, my entire family, and to all the fans at Bama and New England ...

“Thank you. Just thank you. I wouldn’t rewrite a single chapter of this story.”

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