FOXBORO -- Dont'a Hightower learns quickly. The rookie linebacker is sounding like a Patriot after just two days of training camp.
I definitely feel like I can help out somewhere along the line. Im going to do what I can, whatever they ask me to do. Whether its kicking or holding the snap, Im going to do whatever I can to get on the field.
His standing isn't as tenuous as all that; nobody will be asking the first-round pick to kick the football. Still, it's smart for Hightower to play the role of sponge for now.
He's already found a wellspring of advice and information: Jerod Mayo.
Hightower said he's followed Mayo's career from the University of Tennessee to New England. Seeing the former Volunteer win Defensive Rookie of the Year honors with 128 tackles clearly made an impression.
"I feel like most linebackers have the mentality that they want to come in and make a big impact. Me talking to him and asking him how he did things as a rookie, how he prepared and things like that, is going to help me out the best, said Hightower.
The Patriots must love the effort at emulation.
During camp, Mayo has been moved inside and outside over all three linebacker positions. When Hightower comes in, he does the same.
Is it too much, too soon? Yes, head coach Bill Belichick said he's wary of throwing too much at the new kid and overwhelming him. But, like with Mayo, the potential can't be wasted.
Hes a smart kid and he definitely understands football concepts. It comes pretty quickly to him so thats good," said Belichick. "He might now know exactly what every part of his assignment is, he just spatially knows where hes playing, who is next to him, can figure out kind of how hes supposed to fit things."
Good instincts, good football IQ, and versatility -- an invaluable mix. And add to that the wisdom not to take anything for granted.
I'm learning everywhere: on the field, off the field, in the weight room," said Hightower. "How to study for a different level, how to understand difference terminology. Again, Mayo's done well here. Brandon Spikes has, too. A lot of guys.
"I'm just trying to learn as much from those guys while I'm still young."