Hightower Idolizes The Ravens

Could there be a marriage between the Ravens and the first-round Alabama linebacker?

Posted by Ryan Mink on Saturday, February 25th, 2012 at 6:16 pm | Categories: 2012 Scouting Combine, Combine, Ryan Mink

Asked what players he looks up to, Alabama linebacker Dont’a Hightower first named Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs.

Asked what complex NFL systems mirrored what he had in college, Hightower immediately pointed to Baltimore.

Ravens General Manager Ozzie Newsome is a well-known Alabama lover and alumnus. He was particularly smitten with the Roll Tide’s championship defense this past season.

Could it be a marriage?

Some draft pundits think so, as Hightower has been linked to the Ravens at pick No. 29 in mock drafts. Hightower said he had an interview scheduled with Baltimore, and was looking forward to it.

“Growing up, guys that you watched when you’re 15 and you’re still in middle school and you want to be like this guy, actually being on the field with those guys would be a dream come true,” Hightower said, referring to Lewis.

Hightower also spoke about the Pittsburgh Steelers, pointing to their 3-4 system as a fit and saying he looked up to linebackers James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley.

The two AFC North rivals could both be bidding for his services.

The Ravens might have a major need at linebacker. Outside linebacker Jarret Johnson and inside linebacker Jameel McClain are both unrestricted free agents. And with no end in sight, Lewis is getting older every season.

Hightower played both inside and outside linebacker at Alabama, showing versatility the Ravens generally covet.

He put up 85 tackles, including 11 for loss, four sacks and one interception during his junior season, winning the defense’s internal competition that assigns points for tackles, sacks, interceptions and the like and erases them for mistakes.

Hightower isn’t as big as publicized. He was listed as a 6-foot-4 behemoth, but came in at 6-foot-2, 265 pounds. He said he still wants to shed five to 10 pounds, which would likely improve his ability to cover the pass.

Perhaps the biggest question Hightower has at the NFL Scouting Combine is whether he’s totally healthy. A torn ACL knocked him out for most of his sophomore season and pundits have questioned whether he got back to full strength.

“I feel a lot more fluent as far as my movements go,” Hightower said. “I feel as fast as I’ve ever felt, even before the knee injury.”

One person who has followed Hightower throughout his college career, and could likely tell whether he’s fully back, is Newsome. The former Alabama tight end and Ravens general manager smiled and confirmed on Friday that he has studied all of the Roll Tide’s players.

“I was at the national championship game,” Newsome said.

“In watching that defense this year, it was very similar to the way we played defense in 2000. They were able to stop the run, they could rush the passer and then they had guys in coverage and then you had a ball-hawker at safety. If you want to compare the two, it’s hard to do a college team versus a pro team, but they looked very similar to me.”

Hightower was a co-defensive captain with safety Mark Barron on that defense, and arguably one of its most talented players. He was also joined by fellow first-round linebacker Courtney Upshaw, who will in all likelihood be gone by the time Baltimore is on the clock.

“For that level of football, they were as dominant of a defense as it could be for that level,” Newsome said.

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