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Mayo details process of hiring Hightower after ‘extensive’ search

Mayo details process of hiring Hightower after ‘extensive’ search originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

The New England Patriots introduced their new staff on Wednesday afternoon, officially marking the end of the Bill Belichick era and the beginning of Jerod Mayo’s tenure. The media had a chance to catch up with New England’s new head coach Thursday, leading to questions regarding Mayo’s new staff and how it was selected.

A former Patriots player himself, Mayo chose to bring on one of his old teammates Dont’a Hightower to his staff, hiring the three-time Super Bowl Champion to be New England’s new inside linebackers coach. Despite Hightower’s lack of true coaching experience, Mayo is confident in the decision based on seeing his leadership on the field.

“Hightower, he was my little brother when he got here and one of the smartest players that I’ve been around,” Mayo said at a press conference Thursday. “We’ve been talking about this for a while. I’ll be honest with you. We’ve been talking about it for a while. Hightower has always really wanted to coach. He was a coach on the field. Obviously, he took the torch and ran with it.”

Still just 33 years old, Hightower dominated opposing offenses from 2012 to 2021, all spent as a linebacker in New England. The former first-round pick out of Alabama logged 569 tackles and 27 sacks, along with 18 pass deflections and two interceptions. On top of his five forced fumbles, the 2011 All-American also tallied two defensive touchdowns during his time with the Patriots.

Lest some believe that Mayo hired Hightower to do an old friend a favor, the new Patriots head coach assured the media this was a smart, thought-out hire.

“As far as the championships and the leadership skills that he has, it was very important,” Mayo added of Hightower. “But it wasn’t like a yesterday, ‘Hey man, you want to be my linebacker coach?’ This was an extensive search.”

Only 37 himself, it wasn’t long ago that Mayo began his coaching career, starting out as an inside linebackers coach under Belichick in 2019. With Hightower now in a similar position, Mayo took the time to instill advice on the new coach.

“Just to be a sponge, the same way he was when he came in as a player,” Mayo said. “Just try to learn from as many people as possible.”

Mayo also credited the Patriots’ newly promoted defensive coordinator DeMarcus Covington on helping him through his coaching journey in New England, adding that the former defensive line coach helped him learn the behind-the-scenes aspect of coaching. Seeing how Covington guided him firsthand, Mayo has no doubt he will do the same for the first-year Hightower.

“You have a guy like 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,” Mayo said of the team’s new defensive coordinator. “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 (Covington) and am confident in what he’s taught me. So, with Hightower, he should do the same thing.”

Now essentially with a clean slate, the new Patriots coaching staff will have just a few months to get on the same page before needing to make franchise-altering decisions in the 2024 NFL Draft.

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