Here’s the transcript of Patriots first-round draft pick Dont’a Hightower’s introductory news conference at Gillette Stadium today, provided by the Patriots’ media relations staff.
Q: How has this day been for you?
DH: It’s been pretty busy. I don’t know if I’ve had more than two hours of sleep including the plane ride and from last night. I’m definitely excited and overjoyed for being selected to come to New England and be part of this defense and part of this history.
Q: Do you anticipate the similarities between Nick Saban’s system at Alabama and Bill Belichick’s system to ease your transition?
DH: Definitely. I feel like it’s going to be more or less about me learning the terminology than learning a whole new defense, which is going to help me excel my game and play a lot faster knowing exactly what to do and how to do it being in a system similar to Coach Belichick’s as I was in Coach Saban’s for four years.
Q: Do you see similarities between Nick Saban and Bill Belichick?
DH: Definitely. I haven’t met with Coach Belichick too many times, but just being around him a little bit today and from meeting him at the combine, you can definitely tell those two are two peas in a pod – everything about them from the way they run the organization to the way they get down and talk to you as a man and put everything out on the table and let you know what’s going on.
Q: You said you have met Coach Belichick before but have not spent much time with him.
DH: Yeah, he and Coach Saban are close friends and I’ve met him maybe once before prior to me coming out to the draft, just in Tuscaloosa around the training facility at Alabama.
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Q: Can you tell us about the tornado you got caught in? How close was it to your apartment?
DH: It was at my apartment. Me and a couple of my friends went down to a clubhouse. We were maybe 75 yards away from the tornado. Once it came, there wasn’t too much we could do. We went to the clubhouse and we were in the bathroom. One of my best friends, Michael Williford, started sliding away towards the door. I kind of grabbed him and we ducked up under the sink. Five or 10 minutes later it was over and we came out and checked how everything was gone.
Q: How scary was that?
DH: I couldn’t even explain to you how scary it was. You just never know when’s your last breath. That definitely put me in perspective and made me change as far as my thinking perspective. I’m definitely blessed to be here today.
Q: That was a close call for you.
DH: Yes sir.
Q: How do you describe your game?
DH: I think I’m tough, physical, hard-nosed. I’m a big hitter. I’m going t o get to the ball. When I get to the ball, I’m going to make sure whoever has the ball or whoever is around the ball, they’re going to feel me. I’m definitely going to be an intimidator, definitely want to be somebody who, not even the running back or quarterback, but even the offensive linemen want to know where I’m at on the field at all times. I’m definitely going to get to the ball.
Q: What stands out from you the most about Jerod Mayo and Brandon Spikes?
DH: Growing up when Jerod was at Tennessee, I kind of watched him a lot and took back his game and looked up to him a lot. I know what he’s all about. I’ve seen a lot of the success he’s had here. As far as Brandon Spikes goes, I’ve seen him for the two years that Alabama and Florida clashed in the SEC Championship for two years in a row. So I know how he plays too. He’s definitely done a really good job here in New England. I’m going to do exactly what I can to get on the field and as far as learning the playbook, I’m going to get into it as hard as I can. Hopefully those guys can help me and take me under their wing and teach me some things. I’m definitely looking forward to getting out there on the field with those guys.
Q: How often did you drop into coverage at Alabama?
DH: I dropped all the time. A lot of the teams didn’t want to run the ball on us. A lot of people don’t understand the coverage or the zone match to it. A lot of people think I don’t drop in coverage, but it’s just more complicated than it really is. Nine times out of 10, teams don’t really want to run the ball on us, so we’d have to go into a sub or down package.
Q: You are comfortable either going after the quarterback or dropping into coverage?
DH: Yes, sir.
Q: Can you take that defensive mentality from Alabama and instill it into your teammates as a rookie?
DH: Oh yeah. I don’t really feel like it’s going to be a problem here because it’s something that New England has always been known for – having a good defense. They fell short last year. They got to the Super Bowl with that defense which says a lot about the team and I feel like with me and Chandler Jones as an addition to this defense, I definitely feel like we’re going to turn things around and do whatever we can to make this team better to get back and win the Super Bowl.
Q: How much pride do you take in being an every down player and what goes into conditioning yourself to being available every single down?
DH: You condition yourself in practice and that’s where it starts. You practice how you play. A lot of people say that and don’t mean it, but if you don’t work hard at practice then you’re not going to do what you do in practice in a game. You can’t just turn a switch on in a game. It’s all about how you practice and I definitely take pride in being on the field and all that, especially if it’s four downs for special teams. I’m competitive and I’m passionate about football. This is what I like to do. This is what I love to do. I’m going to do whatever I can to be on the field, whether it’s special teams for the first couple of games or if I’m on the field for three downs and on punt return or something. I’m going to do what I can to get on the field.
Q: Do you already have a good relationship with Chandler Jones?
DH: Yeah. To be honest, the first time I met Chandler was at the Combine and we had, I don’t know if it was lunch or breakfast, but we just chilled for maybe 20 or 30 minutes. We’ve been talking since last night and we were just chilling downstairs. We just feel like we have a really good relationship.
Q: Have you ever been up to this area before?
DH: No, I’ve never been. I’m from Tennessee and I’ve never been further than Kentucky. This is definitely up there for me. It’s definitely going to help having somebody who knows the area a little bit better than I do.
Q: This is as warm as it gets.
DH: I might have to get used to it. My skin is still thin because I thought it was pretty cold down there when we were taking the pictures. It’s definitely something I’m going to have to get used to.
Q: How much of a point of pride is your positional versatility?
DH: A lot. I feel like that’s what’s going to have me on the field a lot this year. Me being able to play all the different positions, me knowing all the different positions at Alabama is really what helped me excel my game and get on the field a lot more at such a young age. But that’s something I’m definitely going to use here – my versatility, whether it’s getting after the quarterback, getting on the running back or dropping in coverage, just trying to throw the quarterback off. Hopefully I’ll be able to come into a role a lot like I did at Alabama, but it’s definitely going to have to be something I’m more comfortable with before [I get on the field]. I’m hoping Coach Belichick puts me in.
Q: What are your immediate plans going forward? Where do you go from here?
DH: Honestly, I have no idea. I don’t know when I’m leaving. I didn’t even know… I knew I was coming today, but I didn’t know what time. So I’m just kind of doing whatever they tell me to do. Whichever position they push me in, I’m going.
Q: What advice have the other Alabama players in the NFL given you?
DH: I played with Brandon Deaderick two years ago and I talked to Mark Ingram and Julio [Jones] and Rolando [McClain] and all those guys. The most they said was just enjoy the time you have right now and just kind of soak in the last days of being a rookie because once you come back in for OTAs, everything starts rolling. I’m just about to go ahead and get back to work whenever I get back to Tuscaloosa, so whenever I come in, I won’t be a step behind anybody.