FOXBOROUGH Dont'a Hightower is only four years younger than Jerod Mayo, so when Mayo was in college, Hightower watched him piled up awards and tackles.
He paid attention to Mayo's rookie season in New England, when he started the first week of the season and played every single snap the rest of the year, racking up 128 tackles, winning defensive rookie of the year almost unanimously and ultimately being named captain of the defense going into his sophomore year.
That's the kind of impact Hightower, the Patriots first round pick out of Alabama, wants to make. So he's picking Mayo's brain during training camp.
As a linebacker, I feel like most linebackers have the mentality that they want to come in and they want to make a big impact, Hightower said. Me talking to him and asking him how he did things as a rookie and how he did things like that, that's going to help me out the best. I just want to do what I can whether it's on special teams or defense to contribute to this team.
Coach Bill Belichick has praised Hightower's football IQ, and Mayo has said how committed the rookie has been in the film room. But Hightower said there's always work to be done.
It's everywhere, Hightower said. On the field, off the field, in the weight room, how to study for a different level, how to understand difference terminology. Again, Mayo's done well here. Spikes has, too. A lot of guys. I'm just trying to learn as much from those guys while I'm still young and while we're still going through training camp and the process is a little bit slower than what it will be in a couple of days.