Hard Work Puts Patrick In Picture

Dont'a Hightower has been gone from Alabama for over a year, now playing in the NFL for the New England Patriots, but Hightower's influence remains with the Crimson Tide defense as a linebacker mentor.

Tana Patrick is beginning his fifth season at Alabama and the inside linebacker from Bridgeport seems destined for increased playing time at the inside (middle and weakside) spots in 2013. And Patrick said that he learned the most from Dont'a Hightower.

Patrick finished 2013 spring practice working with both the first and second units. With returning starters C.J. Mosley (weakside) and Trey DePriest (middle) both limited to some extent in the spring, the 6-2, 238-pound Patrick had more opportunities.

Throughout his career, Patrick has been behind good linebackers. He said, "I learned a lot from Dont'a. He'd pull me to the side and tell me things like I should take on blockers a certain way and drop (in pass coverage) a certain way."

Patrick said that he improved in spring practice. "I feel like I've improved in everything," he said. "My pass coverage, my run-stopping, and being more vocal, talking to young guys." He said he worked hard every day.

"That's all that can be asked," he said.

That showed up in the A-Day Game when Patrick – working with the first defense at middle linebacker -- turned in eight tackles (four primary) and forced a fumble.

Going into this season, Patrick has played in 29 career games and has 27 tackles. He was redshirted as a true freshman in 2009 along with first-year teammates A.J. McCarron and Ed Stinson. He played in five games in 2010 and 10 games in 2011. In last year's national championship season, Patrick played in all 14 games.

Although Patrick said game experience "helps out a lot," he added, "Doing all the practice reps, though, is pretty much like a game situation here at Alabama."

He said he is comfortable at either inside linebacker position. "I've been here a while, so I know them pretty good," he said. "Whatever they ask me to do, I'm willing to do. I'm a team player."

Patrick is also embracing the expectations of him having an increased leadership role as he enters his final season.

"It's a lot more being willing to show the young guys how to do things," he said. "It has been really exciting to be one of the leaders on the team."

Speaking of leadership, Patrick has been on three Alabama national championship teams that have gone to the White House to meet the President.

"It was really good," Patrick said. "It was my third time meeting him."

Did he remember you?

"I think so. He looked at me like he remembered me, so that made me feel pretty good."

Did you tell him you'd see him next year?

"No, I didn't say anything like that."

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