Hiring of Hightower has been in the works for a while

Image courtesy of Nancy Lane (MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)

Almost everyone that grew up a Patriots fan was ecstatic to hear that Dont’a Hightower would be joining Jerod Mayo’s staff as a linebackers coach.

Almost everyone.

There was a small segment of fans that felt this was just a friendship hire. As good as ‘High’ was for the franchise, after so much nepotism throughout the years on the Patriots staff, some felt this was just Mayo’s version of what Bill Belichick did for years.

That’s not the case though. Did it play a small part? Of course, but Mayo has a lot of faith in Hightower’s ability to be a phenomenal coach because of his work ethic, particularly in the classroom.

“Hightower, he was my little brother when he got here and one of the smartest players that I’ve been around. We’ve been talking about this for a while. I’ll be honest with you. We’ve been talking about it for a while,” Mayo said during his first press conference since putting together his staff. “Hightower has always really wanted to coach. He was a coach on the field. Obviously, he took the torch and ran with it. As far as the championships and the leadership skills that he has, it was very important, but it wasn’t like a yesterday, ‘hey man, you want to be my linebacker coach’? This was an extensive search.”

As far as how Mayo can help Hightower, he gave him some pretty simple advice and used the team’s newest defensive coordinator Demarcus Covington as another example to follow for a young, up-and-coming coach.

“Just to be a sponge, the same way he was when he came in as a player” said Mayo. “Just try to learn from as many people as possible. When I got here, I could talk about my journey. You have a guy like DeMarcus Covington, who really started off on offense, moved over to defense, quality control, then all of a sudden, he’s coaching the linebackers without the linebacker tag. He’s going to the front, but he had an extensive knowledge of different position groups.

“Also, I would say he really helped me with the behind-the-scenes stuff – the drawing of the cards and setting up practice and things like that. Steve [Belichick] helped me as well, but I spent a lot of time with DC and am confident in what he’s taught me. So, with Hightower, he should do the same thing.”

Speaking of Covington, he too expressed his excitement about how much one of the team’s all-time greats can help during this rebuild.

“You talk about the foundation…you talk about the foundation of our defense and a guy who has done so much on the field as a player,” he said. “He will literally play any position across the front and know every position across the front. His leadership and communications skills, what he did not only just on the field but in the classroom as a leader, it’s going to bring value to our team.

“You see guys like that all across the league that become…you know, former players that played at a high level that’s also a leader in the classroom or leader out there with the players, and we’re hoping that same thing transitions, similar to Jerod. Hopefully, that transitions for us as a linebackers coach.”