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Patriots linebacker, three-time Super Bowl champion Dont'a Hightower announces retirement 

Dont'a Hightower has officially announced his retirement from the NFL after nine seasons on the field, penning a retirement letter for The Players' Tribune on Tuesday.

"Today, I am officially retiring from the NFL," the three-time Super Bowl champion wrote. "I know these announcements always feel bittersweet, but I can't think of a better story than the one I wrote in New England. A decade, three Super Bowls, two Pro Bowls, and the birth of my son -- all playing for one franchise. How many guys have a story like that?

"So this is a happy day for me, and I just wanted to let you all know how much I appreciate you embracing a Southern kid from Lewisburg, Tennessee."

A pivotal tackler in the middle of the Patriots' defense, Hightower earned two Pro Bowls to go along with his three rings and generated 569 total tackles, 27 sacks and one career interception. He also won two national championships in college at Alabama.

Following his Pro Bowl 2019 campaign, Hightower elected to opt out of the 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He returned in 2021, playing 15 games, earning 64 tackles and 1.5 sacks. He did not play in 2022.

In his first Super Bowl victory over the Seattle Seahawks with the Patriots, Hightower made one of the most unsung plays of the game, tripping up Marshawn Lynch at the 1-yard-line. The play set up Malcolm Butler's famous interception to seal the Lombardi Trophy for New England. If not for Hightower's tackle, the game would have unfolded much differently.

"When I look at that first ring, I think about the Marshawn tackle," Hightower wrote of the play.

"When I saw Seattle line up in that I-form, I knew Beast Mode was getting it, and I knew they'd been gashing us with that strong-side lead all game. I knew he was going to walk through a huge hole if I didn't take a risk. It's funny how things come full circle, because when I was at Alabama, Kirby Smart used to always tell us, 'Never ever go behind a block unless you're sure you're going to make a play.'

"Well, I wasn't sure. But I figured we had nothing to lose. So I ripped up under Okung and shot my shot. All I saw was Marshawn's two legs churning, and I just prayed to God that I could clip him up or something. I reached out ... and you already know what happened next."

What happened next was the first of three Super Bowls Hightower would go on to win.

He now walks away as one of the Patriots' all-time greats.

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