Hightower with a dash of Pepper

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Patriots first-round draft choice Dont'a Hightower comes across as confident and polished in media interviews, and one topic that stood out Friday was when he was asked about New England linebackers coach Pepper Johnson.

In a coaching staff shake-up, Johnson moved from defensive line to linebackers this year. One of the trickle-down effects of that change is that Johnson will tutor Hightower, the 25th overall selection in the draft.

"I've heard a lot about him, read a lot about him, and there were times when I was at Alabama and Coach Saban would bring his name up, and that's how I kind of got a bead on him," Hightower told reporters. "Being able to be coached under a guy like that is definitely going to help me out with my game and I'm just real eager to picking his brain."

As for how Saban brought up Johnson to his players at Alabama, Hightower said it was because of the way he played and approached the game.

"Just 'The Man.' A beast. Somebody you definitely want to idolize, and somebody that you want as a role model at this point, so I'm definitely eager to learn under him," relayed Hightower, who was born in 1990, eight years before Johnson's playing career ended. "He's definitely a guy that's had a lot of history in the NFL, and a great career. He's been doing a great job since he's been here. Like I said, I've already learned a lot of things from him, and I plan on continuing learning more from him."

Hightower said one other thing that figures to go over well with Patriots followers. Asked what he does away from football, he said simply, "Sleep."

"Football is our life now," he added. "The only two things for me to do now is sleep and study."