Welcome To The Family, Dont’a
Dont’a Hightower talks about joining Jordan Brand and being Mr. February.
In high school, Dont’a Hightower achieved a personal goal when he was named 2007 Class 3A Mr. Football Lineman of the Year at Marshall County in Lewisburg, Tennessee. Once a three-sport athlete, his versatile talent and promise as a young star propelled him to become a first-round draft pick. These days, he goes by a different title: Mr. February.
Hightower has spent his entire professional career wearing red, white, blue and silver, and his coach gave him the new nickname as an acknowledgement of the numerous major plays he’s made in crunch time. Three performances in particular, accomplished during Super Bowls XLIX, LI and LIII, helped him and his teammates become world champions three times over in just five years.
The nickname is a testament to Dont’a stepping up when he’s needed most. He did it as a two-way sophomore in high school, when the starting running back quit, and Hightower rushed for more than 1,000 yards in only four games. He did it in college, when he became a consensus All-American, in his final year in Tuscaloosa, on the way to his second national championship. And he’s done it every time he steps onto the field for a professional title game. He’s one of only two players in history to have more than one championship at both college and pro levels.
The clutch gene is rare in the sports world, but it’s nearly a prerequisite to becoming a part of the Jordan Brand family. Welcome to the family, Dont’a.
What does it feel like to be part of the Jordan Brand family?
It’s a huge honor. Not too many people can say that they’re sponsored by Jordan Brand. The name itself means so much. MJ is obviously the best athlete to ever play the game. To be able to wear the brand and say that I’m a part of the Jordan Brand family is a big honor.
What are your favorite Air Jordans?
The Air Jordan Is are my favorite pair, even though I didn’t really get into shoes like that until college. Growing up out in the country made it hard. I had big feet from an early age, so I wore a lot of Nike Air Force 1s. Once I got to college and into the league, it was different. A couple of my teammates used to call me Dont’a Hightower Jordan, before I even signed with Jordan, because I always wore Jordan shoes and shirts.
When I got to tell them that I actually signed with Jordan Brand, they were just as geeked as I was, maybe even more. They’re DBs, so all they talk about is shoes. It’s pretty dope being in the locker room and being able to say that these are my shoes.
What do you like about the Air Jordan I?
I’ll always like them more, because they were my first pair. One of my teammates in college was a big shoe head and had them. I thought they were dope. He asked if I wanted them, and I was like, “If you’re going to give them to me, I’ll take them.” AJIs became my thing.
The Jumpman has grown to mean so much more than just basketball. Now, it’s on the field during football games. What does the Jumpman symbolize to you?
It just shows the kind of player that MJ was. He was relentless, hard-working and always clutch when everything mattered. When you see the Jumpman, it’s elite; it’s set apart.
What are your favorite MJ moments?
Whenever I think of MJ or the brand, the biggest moment would be the flu game. I think that symbolizes the whole brand. No matter how big or small of a challenge, the man was resilient. The man had the flu and was out there getting things done. To me, that’s pretty much the Jordan mentality and the Jordan Brand.
There is a certain style that comes with being a Jordan Brand athlete. How do you describe that?
It’s swag, man! I can’t think of a better word. It’s elite. You’re top-notch. It’s royalty. It doesn’t get any better than that.
“To be able to wear the brand and say that I'm a part of the Jordan Brand family is a big honor.”
Being clutch is pretty much synonymous with Air Jordans. Your coach referred to you as “Mr. February,” because you come up big on the greatest stage. What gives you that confidence when the game is on the line?
I don’t see it as making a big play. A lot of the time, I’m doing the stuff we worked on and practiced hard for. I take pride in my work and how hard I work at it. So, whenever the opportunity presents itself in a game, and I’m able to make a check or make a call, it just so happens that it might be a big play. That’s just the result of my work ethic and being consistent each and every week.
It just so happens that it shows up in February, but I’m consistently doing those things throughout the year. So whenever it happens, I’m not saying that it’s a big moment. But I’m attacking it like it’s another play.
You’ve overcome obstacles to win on the biggest stages, from college to the pros. What is your advice to young fans who are on the come-up?
Be consistent, work hard and take advantage of each opportunity that’s given, no matter how big or small. The little things matter in life more than the big things. You can take advantage of the smaller things, and those things will equate to bigger things. Once you have those good habits intact, you can continue to build and establish yourself.
When and how did you realize that?
It was part of my upbringing. As a single parent, my mom had to do a little bit of everything. She was working two jobs and had two kids, so it was literally the little things. The meal preps and all the things that she did went a long way, because they had to.
Boston has become a bit of a Jordan Brand athlete hub. What makes that city so special to you?
The overall culture is special to me. It’s a sports town. Title Town is the nickname given to Boston, because of the winning culture, and it’s not just in one sport. It’s all of the sports in Boston. There’s no doubt in my mind that you have some of the better teams here.