BOSTON (CBS) – In their second trade in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft, the New England Patriots acquired the 25th pick from the Denver Broncos for the 31st overall pick, selecting Alabama linebacker Dont’a Hightower.
In three seasons for the Crimson Tide, Hightower totaled 235 tackles and four sacks. The 2011 consensus first-team All-American lead the nation’s top defense with a career-high 81 tackles to go with three sacks.
The Patriots also sent a fourth round selection in this year’s draft to the Broncos in the trade.
New England also traded the 27th overall pick and a third rounder to the Cincinnati Bengals for the 21st overall pick, drafting Syracuse defensive end Chandler Jones.
Here is a transcript of Hightower’s conference call with reporters after he was selected.
Q: Where were you when got the call?
DH: I was in New York. I was with my mom, my sister, my best friend, my girlfriend and a couple other people and my teammates.
Q: Were you surprised it was the Patriots?
DH: You know, I was on the second one. I thought they might have picked me the first time, but they traded back up the second time and grabbed me, so I’m grateful for that.
Q: Did you work out for them at all and what was that experience like if you did?
DH: No, I did not work out for them.
Q: You had four sacks last season. Can you talk about your role as a pass rusher in the Alabama defense?
DH: I would come in on third down and put pressure on the quarterback. Depending on down and distance, sometimes I would stand up and drop to be an extra zoner; sometimes we’d switch up different roles and have me do some of the other stuff.
Q: Is that something you think you can do at the next level – rush the passer?
DH: I hope so.
Q: What is it like to be a part of an Alabama defense that had so many first round players together last year? What was that like and how did that help you?
DH: It was a good experience. Growing up with these guys and playing with them for three or four years, it meant a lot and it showed a lot. It shows the caliber that we have as people, as friends, and the caliber of the university that we’re putting out as many good players as we are. It has a lot to do with Coach [Nick] Saban, but it has a lot more to do with the way we addressed it.
Q: A lot of guys who have played for Coach Saban and who have come up here to play in New England say there are some similarities. Do you anticipate any similarities and did Coach Saban talk to you about the Patriots at all?
DH: No, Coach Saban never really talked to me about the Patriots at all. There are a couple of guys up there in New England that I do know that I’ve talked to and said that things are very similar.
Q: Do you know [Patriots defensive lineman] Brandon Deaderick? Are you close with him?
DH: Yeah, that’s one of the guys that I’ve talked to.
Q: Did you have any idea that the Patriots were interested?
DH: I had a small amount [of an idea]. I met with those guys at the Combine and I met them at one of the Pro Days, so I knew that they were kind of interested in some of the defensive players that we had at Alabama.
Q: What kind of preconceived notions did you have about the Patriots and Coach Belichick before you got picked? Were you a fan of New England?
DH: I didn’t really grow up watching NFL football, really. But I watched because of the style of defense and the Patriots were one of those defenses I watched a lot, mainly because we did a lot of the same things. Coach Belichick is a genius when it comes to football, let alone defense, so to play under somebody like that and to gain more knowledge after playing with Coach Saban, that’s something that’s going to help me and my game a lot.
Q: How adept are you at dropping into coverage? At your size and weight, people probably assume you’d be heading toward the line of scrimmage, but are you pretty good at dropping back into coverage?
DH: I like to think I’m dropping into coverage.
Q: Overall, do you think you’re better suited for a 4-3 or a 3-4?
DH: I don’t know. I’m versatile and I can play all different kinds of positions. It’s more or less about the scheme and the philosophy. It gets a lot more technical about what position it is. I’m going to get to the ball and I’m going to make plays on the ball, regardless of whether it’s a 4-3 or a 3-4.
Q: What do you say to people who say you haven’t played with the same intensity since your ACL injury?
DH: I’m going to tell them that they haven’t been watching me play. In 2010 after the knee injury I made a lot more plays that I would have made before the knee injury.
Q: Is there a guy in the league you model your play after?
DH: I like to watch a lot of film on Patrick Willis, [Brian] Urlacher, Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs, a lot of the big name guys that play fast with a high motor.
Q: It seems like you, Brandon Spikes and Jerod Mayo could be an exciting group of young linebackers. How do you feel about lining up alongside those guys and playing with them?
DH: That would mean a lot to me. I watched Jerod Mayo when he was playing at Tennessee. I’ve seen a lot of Brandon Spikes with him playing at Florida and us banging heads in the SEC. Playing alongside those guys – those are two really good inside linebackers and I feel like we could have a really good linebacking corps.
Q: What is it about the SEC that produces so many NFL players?
DH: I feel like it’s because of the style of play that we play with. A lot of teams kind of do a lot of run and gun, shotgun stuff – a lot of eye candy. But in the SEC, we run the ball, more of a pro-style offense, I guess. We always have guys that are big and fast.
Q: You mentioned both inside and outside linebackers in the NFL as guys you model your game after. Would you say your versatility was something you marketed about yourself to NFL teams?
DH: Yeah, I do. My role on this team for three years was to rush the quarterback and to stand up and play linebacker on two downs. They’ve kind of seen it on film, but I feel like modeling my game after those guys helps my marketability on that.