The Bears on Sunday hired Richard Hightower as their new special teams coordinator. The 41-year-old returns to the team for a second stint after serving as assistant special teams coordinator in 2016 on coach John Fox's staff under special teams coordinator Jeff Rodgers.
New Bears coach Matt Eberflus now has all three of his coordinators in place, with Hightower joining Luke Getsy (offense) and Alan Williams (defense).
Hightower boasts 15 years of NFL coaching experience, including the last five seasons as 49ers special teams coordinator. Under his guidance, former Bears kicker Robbie Gould led the NFL with 39 field goals and scored a career-high 145 points in 2017 and set a 49ers record by making 97.1 percent of his field-goal attempts (33 of 34) in 2018.
In 2021, the 49ers' special teams played a significant role in the team's postseason run to the NFC Championship Game. In a divisional round win over the Packers, Hightower's unit blocked a punt and returned it for a touchdown to tie the score in the fourth quarter, and Gould kicked a game-winning field goal as time expired. The 49ers also blocked a field goal try on the final play of the first half, preventing the Packers from taking a two-score lead.
San Francisco punter Mitch Wishnowsky was named NFC special teams player of the month for September after averaging 46.8 yards on 11 punts that were returned for only 19 yards, while placing six inside-the-20.
Hightower started his NFL career with the Texans as a coaching assistant (2006-07) and special teams assistant (2008). The Texas native then served as receivers coach at the University of Minnesota in 2009 before returning to the NFL with Washington as an assistant teams coach from 2010-13, doubling as an assistant defensive backs coach in 2012-13.
Hightower was hired by the Browns as an offensive quality control coach in 2014. He worked with the 49ers as an assistant special teams coach in 2015 before joining the Bears for the first time the following season.
As a player, Hightower was a special teams standout and three-year letterman at the University of Texas, where he earned a bachelor's degree in marketing. He enrolled at the school with an academic scholarship and later was awarded a football scholarship as a senior.