Now, some lucky team could get a steal in April's NFL draft. Hightower's rare combination of size and speed has him projected by many as a late first-round pick, but he might be better than that.
Hightower was one of the nation's top young linebackers as a freshman before he tore the anterior cruciate ligament, medial collateral ligament and meniscus in his left knee four games into the 2009 season. He returned in 2010, had 69 tackles and was named All-SEC second team by The Associated Press and the coaches.
As a junior last season, he anchored the nation's best defense, was a finalist for numerous national awards and helped the Crimson Tide win the national championship.