Dont’a Hightower doesn’t deny it.
Watching from the sidelines as Alabama won the BCS National Championship was, well, difficult for the injured Crimson Tide linebacker.
Hightower saw his season end during the Arkansas game on Sept. 26 when he tore ligaments in his left knee after taking a cut block from Razorbacks offensive lineman Mitch Petrus.
The injury created a void in Hightower’s life — one that became more and more painful as the season progressed.
“Going 14-0, and me only being able to play in three of the games, of course there’s always been a thought in the back of mind that that I could’ve been a part of something special,” Hightower said. “Not being out there was one thing, but whenever you play football your whole life, and then you have it taken away from you, it hurts.”
Now Hightower is back with a clean bill of health. And because of that unwanted time on the sideline, the junior linebacker is more motivated than ever.
“Hunger was actually one of the things that motivated me most,” Hightower said. “Just being back on the field, that’s one of the things that I’m really motivated about.”
After missing almost all of last season, Hightower returned to the field for spring practice.
Hightower had been eagerly awaiting his return to full contact for months, so his first instinct was to …
“Hit somebody,” Hightower said. “I hadn’t had any contact in like six months, so I was out there trying to kill somebody.
“Unfortunately I wasn’t able to move as well as I thought I could, but it still felt great.”
With fall practice looming on Aug. 4, Hightower says his mobility is no longer an issue. Now he faces the daunting task of replacing former Tide inside linebacker Rolando McClain — a first-round draft pick by the Oakland Raiders — as the heart and soul of Alabama’s defense.
Hightower earned a starting role on Alabama’s defense as a true freshman in 2008, recording 64 tackles.
He started the first the first four games of last season before getting injured in the first quarter of the Arkansas game.
But even though Hightower is the most-experienced member of Alabama’s linebacker corps, Tide coach Nick Saban said he doesn’t want the junior to take over McClain’s vacated role on defense.
At least not solely.
“They’re two completely different players,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “Dont’a is a very good inside linebacker. But the thing he does a little bit better than Ro, is Ro was the signal-caller, the leader out there. Dont’a is a little bit more of a pass-rusher, could play defensive end. He can move around and play multiple positions where Rolando McClain played the same position all the time.
“I’m hopeful that Dont’a will not have to be the signal-caller all the time so he can play some of those other roles, as well, because they are tremendous assets for him and would be assets for our defense.”
Regardless of what his role will be, Hightower is glad to be healthy and back on the field.
And now he wants his shot at being part of something special.
“I think we can be just as good as last year,” Hightower said. We’re going to be a lot faster and have a lot more athleticism (on defense). We may not have as much size, but I think we’re going to be great.
“I’m as hungry as ever … I’m just motivated about getting back on the field.”
Justin Graves can be reached by phone at 734-2131, ext. 257 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
Tide star linebacker missed most of last season with knee injury
Dont’a Hightower doesn’t deny it.
- Top Sports
COLLEGE FOOTBALL: Petersen leaving Boise State for Washington
After all the other schools that called over the years and were sent away, it was Washington that finally hooked Chris Petersen.
PREP BASKETBALL: Smith sinks buzzer-beating 3 to force OT, St. Bernard sweeps Whitesburg Christian
Nothing could go right for St. Bernard’s boys for almost all of the fourth quarter of Thursday night’s home game against Whitesburg Christian.
Catch the key word in the previous sentence? Almost.
PREP BASKETBALL: Raiders D up in 37-30 over Westminster Christian
Good Hope’s offensive game may not have been clicking on all cylinders Thursday night, but its defense sure did shine.
WALLACE STATE VOLLEYBALL: Lions’ Kianna Delaney earns NJCAA honorable mention All-American recognition
Wallace State volleyball middle hitter Kianna Delaney was named a National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Division I honorable mention All-American Thursday, according to a list released by the national office.
AUBURN FOOTBALL: Jacobs says Malzahn has done 'miraculous' job
Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs says the winner of the SEC championship game with No. 5 Missouri should get a chance to play for a national title — even if that means an Iron Bowl rematch.
PREP BASKETBALL: Jones, West Point hang on late to edge Hanceville 53-50
For the first three quarters of Wednesday’s county clash between West Point and Hanceville, the Warriors hassled, hounded, bothered and disrupted the Bulldogs on the offensive side of the floor.
PREP SOFTBALL: Vinemont’s Christiansen signs with Alabama A&M
Raven Christiansen has always been one to push herself farther than most are willing to go.
SEC FOOTBALL: Pinkel, No. 5 Tigers thrive in Year 2
Gary Pinkel was in no mood for holiday cheer a year ago.
WALLACE STATE WOMEN’S BASKETBALL: No. 16 Lions explode for 100 points in dominant win vs. Chattanooga State
A 12-day layoff didn’t affect Wallace State’s women’s basketball team at all Tuesday night. The 16th-ranked Lady Lions exploded for one of their largest offensive outbursts in years, cruising to a dominant 100-77 victory over Chattanooga (Tenn.) State at Tom Drake Coliseum.
PREP BASKETBALL ROUNDUP: Holly Pond boys clobber Tigers for area win
Four Holly Pond players eclipsed double-digit point totals, and Cody Jones was mighty helpful with 10 assists to lift the Broncos to an 84-50 road victory over J.B. Pennington on Tuesday night.
- More Top Sports Headlines
- COLLEGE FOOTBALL: Petersen leaving Boise State for Washington