- Associated Press - Thursday, July 19, 2012

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The New England Patriots signed first-round draft choice Dont’a Hightower on Thursday to a four-year contract.

Hightower, 22, was selected by New England with the 25th overall pick in April. The 6-foot-3, 270-pound linebacker from Alabama was a finalist for the Chuck Bednarik, Butkus and Lombardi Awards, and was a consensus All-American in 2011.

Hightower started 42 of 44 games at Alabama and registered 234 total tackles, five sacks, two forced fumbles, two fumbles recovered, seven passes defensed, one interception and one blocked field goal.

After starting in 12 of 14 games as a true freshman in 2008, Hightower was granted a medical redshirt year in 2009 after being limited to just four games due to injury. He started all 13 games in 2010 and again in 2011. Last season, he led the team with a career-high 85 total tackles.

With training camp on the horizon, all of New England’s draft picks have been signed.

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