Star is Born

Dont'a Hightower, of Marshall County High School in Lewisburg, is living proof that football stars aren't born as much as they are discovered.

Up until he most recent update of the national rankings by, HIghtower had languished among the non-rated, two-star prospects, many of whom are destined for Division II careers.

Naturally with at least a dozen Division I offers in his possession, including at least five schools from the SEC, he deserved more respect and a higher ranking.

After viewing game film and comparing notes, the analysts at agreed with that appraisal and gave HIghtower a boost to No. 22 nationally among defensive ends while increasing his rating to four stars.

Ironically, he has played just about every position in high school other than defensive end. His primary position on defense was linebacker, but at 6-foot-2, 245-pound, with 4.70 speed he also saw service at tight end and tailback. As a sophomore he stepped in when the starting tailback walked out and he rushed for over 1,000 yards and seven touchdowns in only four games.

As a junior he recorded 98 tackles with two sacks and seven forced fumbles. As a tight end he caught 18 passes for 253 yards and four touchdowns. He also added a couple of hundred yards on the ground.

"I am being recruited for all over the field," Hightower told Mississippi Scout Yancy Porter. "Some like me at linebacker, others like me at defensive end, some at tight end, and some at running back."

As things currently stand Hightower is most interested in Alabama, Auburn, Tennessee and Vanderbilt with Ole Miss and Georgia Tech trailing the lead pack.

HIghtower is weighing several factors into his decision making process.

"Depends on their academics, how close it is to home, and what position I would be playing," he said. "I would prefer to play tight end, but if not, I want to play outside linebacker."

Playing outside linebacker will largely depend on his growth potential. Obviously he could quickly become too large for linebacker, but tight end would remain a viable alternative. Still his quickness, instincts, speed and tenacity could easily be showcased as a rush end a la Parys Haralson, who was the same size at Hightower's age. However he indicates the Vols are recruiting him as an H-back.

The allure of playing for the home state Volunteers is not lost upon the young talent.

"They had a good recruiting class last year, and they are off to another good start this year," he said. "It is also pretty close to home. I have always watched them on TV, and I would not mind being a part of that."

An All-State selection as a junior, Hightower is working on improving his upper body strength. He is bench pressing in the 330-pound range and is pushing to get his squat back up to the 500 pounds he was lifting before a leg injury last year.

"I have just been working out at school and playing in a passing league tournament at Laverne High," he said. "We beat Hillsboro and Laverne in the playoffs, but we got put out by Antioch. It is disappointing not making it to Hoover, but we got a lot better this summer.

"My conditioning is the biggest thing. We run the no huddle offense in the spread, so you have to be in good condition to keep up. We are running a mile and half after every practice, then I do ten 110's to make sure I am in top condition for the fall."

With more recognition and a group of high-profile suitors in hot pursuit, Hightower's future appears in great shape.

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