There will be plenty of Texas ties when the San Francisco 49ers and Kansas City Chiefs take the field for Sunday’s Super Bowl LIV in Miami, but the story of Richard Hightower may hit closest to home.
Hightower has always been known as the little guy who got the most out of his 5-foot-8 body. The 1998 MacArthur grad starred as a special team standout after walking on at the University of Texas. Today, Hightower is the special teams coordinator of the 49ers.
His story is one of perseverance and hard work, which has led him to sports biggest stage where his team boasts one of the best special teams units in the NFL.
“I couldn’t be more excited (for his success) and it couldn’t have happened to a better guy,” said Patrick James, who is a long-time friend and current teacher and coach at MacArthur.
Hightower, who eventually earned a scholarship at UT, credits his coaches and experiences at MacArthur for putting him on the path to his 13-year coaching career.
“All of my coaches definitely had an impact on me and I appreciate all of them because they invested so much time in all of us,” Hightower said in a released statement on the Aldine ISD webstite “But my position coaches had the biggest impact on me and coach Kelly Silha and coach Ron Gabriel were the men I spent the most time with.
“I can’t say enough great things about both of them.”
A big part of his success has also been about building relationships. Hightower was teammates at UT with Kyle Shanahan, who is now the head coach of the 49ers. UT coach Mack Brown awarded both Hightower and Shanahan athletic scholarships in 2002.
It didn’t long for Shanahan, who is the son of former NFL coach Mike Shanahan, to establish himself as one of the great offensive minds in the NFL. When Shanahan got the wide receivers job with the Texans under Gary Kubiak, Hightower left his regular job to become an intern with the Texans.
Hightower reconnected with Kyle and his father with the Redskins in 2010 and then when Kyle became the offensive coordinator of the Atlanta Falcons, Hightower joined him there.
When Kyle was named the head coach of the 49ers in 2016, he tapped his good friend to be his special teams coordinator.
“The education I received is a blessing and the experiences and exposure to all those different things you encounter help jumpstart you,” Hightower said. “They (AISD administrators, teachers and coaches) helped shape me and mold me into the person I eventually became.”
Could an NFL head coaching job be somewhere in Hightower’s future? He says that isn’t his focus at the moment.
“If that is in the Lord’s plan for me, then we’ll cross that bridge when we get there,” Hightower said. “But right now, I am focused on one thing and that’s helping my team win this Sunday. All I care about is helping the men in our locker room achieve our goal.”
Follow Terrance Harris on Twitter @terranceharris