Hightower, 22, was selected by the Patriots with the 25th pick overall in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft. The 6-foot-3 inch, 270-pound linebacker from Alabama was a finalist for the Chuck Bednarik, Butkus and Lombardi Awards as well as a consensus All-American and a unanimous All-SEC first-team selection in 2011. Hightower started 42 of 44 games at Alabama and registered 234 total tackles, five sacks, two forced fumbles, two fumbles recovered, seven passes defensed, one interception and one blocked field goal.
After starting in 12 of 14 games as a true freshman in 2008, Hightower was granted a medical redshirt year in 2009 after being limited to just four games due to injury. He started all 13 games in 2010 and again in 2011. Last season, he led the team with a career-high 85 total tackles.