FOXBORO -- When Jerod Mayo patrolled the Patriots locker room as one of the team's captains, younger players learned how to go about their business by watching him go about his.
Now that Mayo has retired, one of his former understudies has been asked to replace him.
Fifth-year linebacker Dont'a Hightower, elected a Patriots captain for the first time in his career on Tuesday, knows he'll have his work cut out for him as he follows in Mayo's footsteps, but he'll continue to lean on lessons learned from his former teammate even in Mayo's absence.
"Everything about Mayo kind of says he's a leader," Hightower said on Wednesday. "The way he carries himself on the field and off the field. I've had the luxury of being a sponge under him for four years so growing up watching him, I've kind of just watched his mannerisms and the way he's watched things so I'll do my best to uphold that."
While Hightower might try to take a similar approach to the one Mayo did, he won't try to be Mayo. In the past he has been open about how difficult it was for him as he filled in for Mayo as one of the team's primary signal-callers in the middle of the defense back in 2013. He put too much pressure on himself in that instance to do things like his then-injured teammate.
Now more comfortable in his own style, and as one of the team's most important players the last two years, Hightower is better equipt to handle the responsibilities that come with taking over a post Mayo had manned since 2009.
"I've definitely learned in the past to not get outside my box, but this is a little bit different," Hightower said. "I've had a little bit of prep work, but I'm definitely looking forward to it. I'm gonna do my best not to let my teammates down."
Hightower -- who explained that voting for captains was "just like voting for president...you get a ballot and fill out who you want" -- said multiple times that what made him most pleased about his new role was that his teammates wanted him in it.
"Definitely the biggest honor out of it all is being elected by my teammates and my peers," he said. "That means a lot to me."
And that he received congratulations from one of his former teammates soon after news broke he'd been elected? That was pretty good, too.
"I still talk to [Mayo] all the time," Hightower said. "He congratulated me. I appreciated it. Stepping in, I got some big shoes to fill, but I'm looking forward to it."