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Jerod Mayo: Dont’a Hightower has always really wanted to coach

It wasn’t long ago that Dont’a Hightower was flying around the field as a Patriots linebacker. But the former first-round pick has now traded his cleats for a whistle, as he’ll be New England’s first linebackers coach under new head coach Jerod Mayo.

During his Wednesday press conference, Mayo noted that he had been talking with Hightower about joining the Pats’ staff “for a while.”

“Hightower, he was my little brother when he got here and one of the smartest players that I’ve been around,” Mayo said. “Hightower has always really wanted to coach. He was a coach on the field. Obviously, he took the torch and ran with it. As far as the championships and the leadership skills that he has, it was very important, but it wasn’t like a yesterday, ‘hey man, you want to be my linebacker coach’? This was an extensive search.”

The No. 25 overall pick of the 2012 draft, Hightower played 117 games with 114 starts for New England from 2012 to 2021. He was a two-time Pro Bowler and one-time second-team all-pro.

Hightower recorded a total of 569 tackles with 43 tackles for loss and 67 quarterback hits. He also recorded two forced fumbles and five fumble recoveries. He had 27.0 sacks, 43 tackles for loss, and 67 quarterback hits.

Mayo said he’s encouraged Hightower, 33, to just “be a sponge” in his first year as a coach, much like the way Hightower operated as a player.

“Just try to learn from as many people as possible,” Mayo said. “When I got here, I could talk about my journey. You have a guy like [defensive coordinator] DeMarcus Covington, who really started off on offense, moved over to defense, quality control, then all of a sudden, he’s coaching the linebackers without the linebacker tag. He’s going to the front, but he had an extensive knowledge of different position groups.

“Also, I would say he really helped me with the behind-the-scenes stuff — the drawing of the cards and setting up practice and things like that. Steve [Belichick] helped me as well, but I spent a lot of time with DC and am confident in what he’s taught me. So, with Hightower, he should do the same thing.”