"Every college that offered me a scholarship actually called and I talked to them," said Hightower. The list of schools calling included: Ole Miss (twice), Georgia Tech, Auburn, Alabama, Tennessee and Middle Tennessee State.
With college football starting up this past weekend, how many games did Dont'a catch on the television?
"Actually, I didn't watch any college games," said Hightower. Instead he took in an unofficial visit to the Vanderbilt campus. Vandy took on Richmond for a 41-17 victory. "I was impressed by the win over Richmond," said Hightower, who seemed to enjoy the visit.
On the subject of his favorite school choices Dont'a named a top 5 of Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia Tech, Vanderbilt, and Auburn. But when asked if the Vanderbilt visit would help them make the next cut, he said that was indeed the case.
"They actually are in my top three," said Hightower. Dont'a actually met some other guys over the summer who are going to attend Vandy and they left a good impression on him as well, so the visit helped solidify their status with him.
While on the subject of narrowing his list, Hightower was asked if he was able to go ahead and round out the other two in his top three.
"My top three right now is Alabama, Vanderbilt and Georgia Tech," he said. No official visits to any of his favorites have yet to be scheduled according to Hightower.
When asked to also comment on Bama and Tech, Dont'a began with the Yellow Jackets.
"I visited this summer," said Hightower about Tech. "It's not an SEC school; it's an ACC school – that doesn't necessarily really bother me at all. But I really liked the campus and everything. It really actually made me feel like I was at home. It felt so much at home – everything was so close together. Everything was there for me. The academics are great. I talked to some of the academic advisors. I met a lot of the players. I met one of the top defensive ends in the nation from Pennsylvania (GT's Derrick Morgan). I saw them workout and everything. I talked to the strength coach (Eric Ciano). I liked Georgia Tech a lot, a whole lot."
"As far as Alabama, I went down there before they had their red and white game," said Hightower about the Crimson Tide. "I liked it so much. They have a new coaching staff. They sat down with me and talked about what position I could play and they actually let me watch film on what position I'd play if I came down to Alabama. So I liked that a lot."
Of his three favorite teams, he's basically getting three different answers on where they see him fitting into their programs.
At Alabama, they like him as an inside will linebacker in a 3-4 defensive scheme. "I'd do a lot of blitzing," said Hightower. "I'd probably be like a third down defensive end pass rush too. I liked that a lot."
At Vanderbilt, they see Dont'a as an athlete on the defensive side of the ball – either LB or DE.
Georgia Tech doesn't even picture him on defensive at all. They like him as a tight end or h-back.
Will position be a big factor for Hightower since each school is telling him something different and does he have a preference for side of the ball?
"I really like offense but I think I'm better suited for defense," he said. "I know a lot more about defense than I do offense."
When asked if that signaled a disadvantage for the Yellow Jackets Hightower said, "No, not necessarily." He then described how playing offense allowed him to play off of some of his advantages. He says he can use his size if matched up versus smaller defensive backs and that he possessed a speed advantage against many linebackers.
Dont'a, when asked if any family members were pushing him toward one school or another, did indicate that was the case.
"My aunt, my uncle and two of my cousins – they really like Alabama," he said. "But as far as pushing me toward a college...if I were to go to Tennessee or Georgia Tech or anywhere else, they'd support me. But if I went to Alabama, that would make them more happy."
A decision on his school choice is not imminent. Hightower expects to have a verdict somewhere between half-way through the season and the end of the season.
One thing that could change that time frame is if he starts to feel pressure to make a choice before missing out on a spot with one of his favorites due to waiting too long.
"Yeah, that's another reason why I'm trying to slim it down pretty quick," said Hightower. "If I wanted to go to Alabama and I waited too late in the season to go, my spot could be filled up and I'd have to go to a different school." He said that Alabama had not given him any warnings about being close to losing his spot yet but they do check in with him to evaluate his interest level. Dont'a did indicate that Georgia Tech let him know that they only have two spots to fill at the tight end position. GT currently has not filled either of those slots.