New England Patriots

New England Patriots

New England Patriots

  • What felt unofficial last year is official now. On Tuesday, long-time Patriots linebacker Dont’a Hightower announced his retirement from football after nine NFL seasons via a piece in the Players’ Tribune.

    This move had been expected given that Hightower didn’t play at all during the 2022 season. He remained a free agent after his contract expired at the end of 2021.

  • “They say time flies in this league. Boy, they’re not lying,” Hightower wrote in his Players’ Tribune piece. “Today, I am officially retiring from the NFL. I know these announcements always feel bittersweet, but I can’t think of a better story than the one I wrote in New England. A decade, three Super Bowls, two Pro Bowls, and the birth of my son — all playing for one franchise. How many guys have a story like that?”

    “This is a happy day for me, and I just wanted to let you all know how much I appreciate you embracing a Southern kid from Lewisburg, Tennessee,” he continued.

    The Patriots drafted Hightower 25th overall out of Alabama in the 2012 NFL Draft. He quickly emerged as a leader on the defense, earning playing time alongside Jerod Mayo and Brandon Spikes.

    In nine seasons over 10 years (he opted out of the COVID year in 2020), Hightower played in 117 regular season games for the Patriots, starting 114. In that time he recorded 569 tackles, with 43 for a loss and 27 sacks. He ranks 12th in team history all-time in tackles, and 14th in sacks. He’s a two-time Pro Bowler and was named an All-Pro in 2016.

    As impressive as his regular season performances were, Hightower’s real legacy in New England though is as a big-game player. His most impactful moments seemed to come in the biggest games, highlighted by his strip sack of Matt Ryan in Super Bowl LII – a major turning point in the 28-3 comeback. He also was the one who tackled Marshawn Lynch short of the goal line prior to Malcolm Butler’s game-sealing interception in Super Bowl XLIX.

  • In total Hightower played in 17 playoff games for the Patriots – who reached at least the AFC Championship game in each of his first seven seasons. They were 12-5 in playoff games he played in (he missed the 2017 playoffs due to injury), winning three championships.

    Rumors about Hightower returning to the Patriots mostly became quiet once training camp ended last year. Given in 2023 he’d be playing at the age of 33 after missing two of the last three years, this announcement likely won’t surprise most fans.

    Hightower is the second cornerstone member of the Patriots’ second dynasty to announce his retirement this month. Safety Devin McCourty, who did play in 2022 and was a pending free agent, made his announcement two weeks ago.

  • Alex Barth is a writer and digital producer for 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 [email protected].

Sign me up for the 98.5 The Sports Hub email newsletter!

Get the latest Boston sports news and analysis, plus exclusive on-demand content and special giveaways from Boston's Home for Sports, 98.5 The Sports Hub.

By clicking "Subscribe" I agree to the website's terms of Service and Privacy Policy. I understand I can unsubscribe at any time.