Originally posted on FOX Sports  |  Last updated 4/20/12
Dont'a Hightower says he always believed he'd be a first-round NFL draft pick. The former Alabama linebacker's stock appears to have climbed enough to fulfill that ambition next week. He was projected as a likely second-rounder at regular season's end but improved his prospects with a strong performance in the BCS national championship game and pre-draft workouts. The 265-pound Hightower feels like questions about whether he's fast enough to play middle linebacker in the NFL ''are kind of in the past now.'' He was a finalist for four national awards last season and had career-highs in tackles (85) and sacks (four). Hightower also was responsible for play calls and checks. Coach Nick Saban calls him ''a very, very bright'' player and praises his versatility as a pass rusher and run-stopper.
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