Although they went to schools that are bitter rivals in the SEC, Jerod Mayo and Donta Hightower have a lot in common.
Both guys are former first-team All SEC linebackers. Mayo at Tennessee of course, and Hightower at Alabama.
Both ended up being first round draft picks of the New England Patriots. Mayo was drafted with the 10th pick of the first round in 2008. Hightower was drafted with the 25th pick of the first round in 2012.
Both are committed to playing linebacker at the highest level possible, and it shows.
Hightower will be looking to make considerable strides in his second year and he has the perfect person to seek advice from in Jerod Mayo.
Mayo is a two time pro-bowler that made an immediate impact in his rookie season, winning the defensive rookie of year award. Mayo made strides in his second season, but was hampered by a sprained MCL that caused him to miss a considerable amount of time.
The Virginia native broke out in a huge way in his third year, leading the league with 175 tackles. Mayo is now a captain on the defensive unit and is a great influence for any young player. Mayo is known as a guy with a tremendous work ethic, he shows up early, stays late and works as hard as anyone.
Mayo is clearly the defensive leader on the field and his love for the game is very apparent, if not contagious, as you can tell from this quote to the Boston Herald from Mayo
Everyone around here loves to play football. They love the game. You go to some teams, or you see some players or you hear other players say they’re just doing it for a paycheck. But guys here, they genuinely love the game. The coaches love the game, and we’re all trying to get better
Mayo’s also a huge fan of the work that the linebacker unit has been putting in this off-season.
It’s like we didn’t miss a beat, I think guys took off a couple weeks and then they were right back here working out.
Mayo and Hightower, along with Brandon Spikes out of Florida, provide the Patriots with an all SEC starting linebacker core.
Having a linebacker core full of former SEC players isn’t a guarantee for success, but it’s definitely part of the recipe for success. The SEC is known for defense and over the last several years it’s translated to success in the NFL.
Just ask the New England Patriots.