Iowa has become known as one of the top NFL tight end factories. Its latest product is Detroit Lions second-round rookie Sam LaPorta.
LaPorta is entering the league with high expectations. The Athletic’s Colton Pouncy argued that the rookie should compete for the starting tight end position the rest of the offseason.
But it’s hard to beat any praise that comes from an already established NFL star. That’s especially true when that star plays the same position and attended the same school.
Yes, of all the hype LaPorta has received since the draft, it’s hard to top San Francisco 49ers All-Pro tight end George Kittle.
“Just watching him work out, the way he moves, he’s got a great forward lean, great burst out of his breaks, great hands, and he’s eager, too,” Kittle said when describing LaPorta to The Athletic’s Scott Dochterman. “Sam’s gonna be just fine.
“He’s gonna make some big plays this year.”
Like LaPorta, Kittle played college football at Iowa. With the 49ers, Kittle made first-team All-Pro in 2019 and second-team All-Pro during 2018 and 2022. He’s also made four Pro Bowls (2018, 2019, 2021 and 2022).
Lions Draft Another Iowa TE in Sam LaPorta
Like several of Detroit’s top choices in the 2023 NFL draft, Pouncy described the Lions selection of LaPorta as “a bit of a surprise.” But the Lions beat writer also labeled Dan Campbell, a former tight end himself, and his assistants as a “staff that values tight ends.”
At the trade deadline last season, general manager Brad Holmes traded tight end T.J. Hockenson to the Minnesota Vikings for a second-round pick and 2024 fourth-round choice. Considering Hockenson also went to Iowa, it’s not surprising the Lions found his replacement from the same college program.
In four seasons at Iowa, LaPorta posted 153 catches for 1,786 yards and 5 touchdowns. He had more receptions and nearly the same amount of yards during his college career as Kittle and Hockenson did combined.
During 2022, LaPorta registered 58 receptions for 657 yards with 1 touchdown.
George Kittle, T.J. Hockenson Team Up for Commercial
If LaPorta earns the starting job with the Lions, he will become one of four former Iowa tight ends starting in the NFL.
It’s an impressive group. One that also sticks together.
Kittle and Hockenson teamed up two years ago to do a commercial for Kingsford. Hockenson let Kittle have all the lines, but the former Lions tight end received quite the praise for his outfit.
If LaPorta performs well during his first few years in the league, Lions fans can probably expect to see their newest tight end around Kittle and Hockenson at Pro Bowls and maybe even in commercials.
LaPorta Shines at Lions Rookie Minicamp
LaPorta may not have been a very popular choice among draft experts, but he’s looked good on the field early this offseason.
SI’s All Lions’ John Maakaron called LaPorta one of the top three standouts at the team’s rookie minicamp. Pouncy also heaped praise on the tight end during the minicamp.
“Sam LaPorta was the best player on the field at Lions rookie minicamp, and it wasn’t particularly close,” Pouncy tweeted. “Very impressive day.”
Granted, Detroit’s top pick, running back Jahmyr Gibbs, and second-round defensive back Brian Branch didn’t practice on May 13. But LaPorta’s performance was still notable.