FOXBOROUGH, MASS. (AP)
New England's Dont'a Hightower is living out his childhood dream in the NFL.
One of the Patriots' newest linebackers, Hightower isn't getting caught up in the haze of playing out a real-life fantasy, though. Instead he's focused on making the most of his opportunity.
''It just means a lot for me to have my dreams come true,'' Hightower said before taking the field at Patriots minicamp. ''And obviously doing something that you love to do with so much passion means a lot to me and it's definitely number one on my priority list right now.''
Hightower, 22, is determined to repay the faith that the Patriots showed in trading up to select him in the first round of the NFL draft last month. He's focused on earning his time.
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The Alabama product, fortunately, has a pair of mentors on the Patriots to help guide him through the transition to the NFL. Hightower hopes to use former SEC linebackers Jerod Mayo (Tennessee) and Brandon Spikes (Florida) as a hub for his development.
''I'm really looking forward to learning from both of those guys. Especially coming out college and the SEC, I really looked up to those guys and they're great players,'' Hightower said. ''But I'm definitely looking forward to learning from those two as well as the rest of the linebacking corps.''
Hightower says he's modeled his game after both Mayo and Spikes during his career.
''Playing in the SEC, I've seen them in action before and watched them play and stole some of their good moves,'' he said. ''So I'm really looking forward to playing with those guys.''
Hightower was one of 20 players on the practice field at Gillette Stadium Saturday afternoon for the final day of rookie minicamp. The players participated in some stretching exercises before breaking off into their positional groups.
NOTES: Former NFL quarterback and new Patriots coaching assistant Chris Simms was on the field with the team on Saturday. ... The Patriots agreed to a four-year contract with second-round pick Tavon Wilson, a safety from Illinois, on a $4.2 million pact. Wilson is the first New England rookie to agree to a deal.