Sam LaPorta looking to be versatile piece with Hawkeye football

Going into his junior season in 2021-22, Hawkeye junior tight end Sam LaPorta wants to increase his versatility on the field.


Shivansh Ahuja

Iowa wideout Sam LaPorta runs into Nebraska’s Garrett Nelson during a football game between Iowa and Nebraska at Kinnick Stadium on Friday, Nov. 27, 2020. The Hawkeyes defeated the Cornhuskers, 26-20.

Chloe Peterson, Summer Sports Editor

Hawkeye football junior Sam LaPorta doesn’t feel the pressure of living up to Iowa’s legacy of ‘Tight End U.’

“I just focus on being the best version of myself, as a football player and outside of football,” LaPorta said at a press conference Wednesday. “But I think it’s cool to have that in my corner, Tight End U… it gives me a chip on the shoulder the same way that people criticize players on the team for not performing at a certain level.”

But as Iowa football garners high expectations for its tight ends, LaPorta doesn’t see himself being as good as former Hawkeyes George Kittle, T.J. Hockenson, or Noah Fant.

“I don’t know if I could ever live up to [Tight End U], that’s the thing that’s crazy about it,” LaPorta said. “I have two years left, I never redshirted, I’m just trying to make the most of the time I have now.”

In his junior season in 2021-22, LaPorta is hoping to become a versatile piece of the Hawkeyes offense as the first-string tight end.

“I’m going to do what’s asked of me on any given week,” LaPorta said. “Obviously, I’d like to pack the stat line, but also I’ll block for 70 plays a game if that’s what [offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz] wants me to do.”

LaPorta played in all eight of the Hawkeyes’ games in 2020-21, notching 33.1 yards per game and one touchdown.

With an average of 10 yards per catch, Hawkeye quarterback Spencer Petras sees LaPorta as a valuable part of the Iowa offense.

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“Tight ends are featured in a lot of our offensive plays,” Petras said. “And having a guy that I can trust, that I know both physically and mentally is really good — physically with how he runs his routes and handles the ball, mentally with how he knows what I’m thinking, how he understands how to beat coverage and beat defenders, it’s really important.”

Coming in at 6-foot-4 and 249 pounds, LaPorta has put on 15 pounds since he joined the Hawkeyes as a freshman, and he hopes to use it to improve his blocking on the field.

“We work on our lower body a lot in the weight room,” LaPorta said. “So, just transferring that work from my lower body in the weight room to another human, basically, to move them where I want… I think I’m growing in stature and strength with the help of the strength coaches. I feel like I’ve become a better blocker.”

LaPorta participated in his first full spring practice in 2021, going into his third year on the Hawkeye squad. He joined the team in the fall of 2019, and spring practices were canceled in 2020 because of COVID-19 concerns.

LaPorta worked through routes in spring practice with Petras in a more stable environment than fall preseason camp. LaPorta said getting practice and consistent reps with Petras has been the most critical aspect of practice so far.

And without COVID-19 protocols separating the Hawkeye football team by predetermined groups, LaPorta has also had the ability to build chemistry with the quarterback — especially on the golf course.

“Sam [LaPorta] is a good golfer, I’ve golfed with him a couple times,” Petras said. “He’s a proud member of the grounds crew at Finkbine, so I’ve gone there. But just hanging out with our teammates and our buddies… we’re friends, and any good team is going to spend time together away from the facility.”

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