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EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY - SEPTEMBER 19: Linebacker Dont'a Hightower #54 of the New England Patriots reacts after making a defensive play in the second quarter of the game against the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium on September 19, 2021 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

Nicknames have become a popular part of the Patriots’ zeitgeist over the last year and a half. Last season, it was Cam Newton seemingly revealing one or two a week. But on Wednesday, linebacker Dont’a Hightower may have given himself one that will stick. While speaking to the media before practice, Hightower was asked about the kind of impact he feels he’s making on the Patriots defense.

“I’ve never been a numbers guy. I’m going to do whatever I need to do for the team. Whether it’s knocking the shit out of linemen, or if I’m supposed to have 8 or 10 tackles a game, or have eight sacks, then that’s what I plan on doing,” Hightower explained. “I’m just going to do my job. I’m the trashman. I just play football.”

What does the trashman mean, in a football context?

“Just doing the hard stuff,” Hightower explained. “Just doing the hard stuff, bro. I never have been a big newspaper dude, or whatever. I just want to do my job and win.”

Hightower’s fellow linebacker Matt Judon was also asked to clarify the nickname, but didn’t give much more information.

“If he calls himself that, he calls himself that,” Judon said. “But I think High is a real good player and he does do a lot of dirty jobs for us. He makes it look good. Like how he hits players – offensive linemen, takes on blocks, defeats them, he does a lot of stuff for our defense. So if he wants to be the junk man, he’s the junk man.”

Even Bill Belichick couldn’t quite pin the moniker down when asked about it, although he gave a raving review of the 31-year-old.

“High’s a pretty versatile guy. He can do a lot of things for us, and does whatever we ask him to do. He’s a very unselfish player and he’s so versatile that he’s a guy that you can ask to do a lot of things and he can handle a lot of different things, not necessarily the same every week.” Belichick explained. “He’s a smart player. He has such a good grasp of the overall defense and the offense that we’re playing – how to use the tools that we have and apply them to the situation. He does a lot of things for us that are – he’s really good.”

It appears that – at least for now – Hightower’s trashman label is between him and him. But for a player who constantly shows up and does is job, it’s not a back nickname.

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Alex Barth is a writer and digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Looking for a podcast guest? Let him know on Twitter @RealAlexBarth or via email at abarth@985TheSportsHub.com.