FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Reporters had their first chance to chat with Patriots first-round draft selection Dont'a Hightower on Thursday evening. Here are some highlights from the conference call Q&A:
Surprised not to be drafted at 21. "I thought they might have picked me up the first time, but when they traded back up the second time, I’m grateful for that," Hightower said, adding that he did not work out for the team.
Role in Alabama defense. "My role was to come in on third down and put pressure on the quarterback," Hightower said. "Depending on the down and distance, sometimes I’d stand up and I had drops and be and extra zone (player) and sometimes we’d switch up different roles and let me do some of that other stuff." When asked if he thought he could continue to rush the passer at the NFL level, Hightower said "I hope so."
On the top-ranked Alabama defense. "It was a good experience, growing up with these guys … it meant a lot and it showed the caliber that we have as people, as players and the caliber of the University (of Alabama) showing that we were putting out as many good players as we are," Hightower said. "It has a lot to do with Coach Saban. It has a lot more to do with the way that we adjust.
Similarities between Alabama and Patriots schemes. "A lot of guys that played for Coach Saban in the past and who have come up here to New England say that there are similarities between what they’ve done in college with Coach Saban and what they do in New England," Hightower said, pointing out Patriots defensive end Brandon Deaderick as one of his former Alabama teammates."
Pre-draft contact with the Patriots. "I had a small amount. I met with those guys at the Combine and I met them at one of the Pro Days, I knew that they were kind of interested in some of the defensive players that we had at Alabama."
Conceptions of the Patriots prior to being drafted. "I didn’t really grow up watching NFL football, really. I watched them cause of the style of the defense. And the Patriots are one of the defenses that I watch a lot mainly cause we do a lot of the same things," Hightower said. "Coach Belichick is a genius when it comes to football, let alone defense and playing for someone like that and gaining more knowledge after playing for Coach Saban, that’s something that’s going to help me and my game out a lot."
Preference between 4-3 or 3-4 defense. "I don’t know. I’m versatile and I can play all different kinds of positions, it’s more or less about the scheme and the philosophy, it gets a lot more technical into than what position it is. I’m going to get to the ball and I’m going to make plays at the ball, regardless of whether it’s a 4-3 or 3-4."
NFL role models. "I like to watch a lot of film of Patrick Willis, (Brian) Urlacher, Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs, James Harrison, a lot of the big name guys that play fast with a high motor."
New teammates Jerod Mayo and Brandon Spikes. "It would mean a lot to me. I watched a lot of Mayo when he played at Tennessee and I continue to watch him. I’ve seen a lot of Brandon Spikes, with him playing at Florida and banging heads in the SEC," Hightower said. "Playing alongside those guys, those are two really good inside linebackers, I think we’d have a really good linebacking core."
On SEC football. "I feel like it’s because of the style of play that we play. A lot of teams kind of do a lot of run and gun, shotgun stuff, a lot of eye candy," Hightower said. "In the SEC we run the ball, throw the ball, pro style offense, but we still got guys that are big and fast like the other conferences."
Marketing versatility to NFL teams. "My role on this team for three years was to rush the quarterback and to stand up and play linebacker on two downs," Hightower said. "They've kind of seen it on film, but I feel like modeling my game after those guys helps my marketability on that."