Iowa football’s Sam LaPorta ready to make a difference in senior season

The tight end chose to return to Iowa over the NFL Draft and is looking to be a leader for the Hawkeye offense.


Grace Smith

Iowa tight end Sam LaPorta runs the ball toward the end zone for a touchdown during the 2022 Vrbo Citrus Bowl between No. 15 Iowa and No. 22 Kentucky at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Florida, on Saturday, Jan. 1, 2022. The Wildcats defeated the Hawkeyes, 20-17.

Chloe Peterson, Assistant Sports Editor

Iowa football head coach Kirk Ferentz thinks Sam LaPorta has “a certain knack” about him.

LaPorta was a 2019 three-star tight end recruit out of Highland, Illinois, when Ferentz and the Hawkeyes extended him an offer. Although LaPorta had a bevy of offers from Division I football institutions, including Western Illinois, Central Michigan, and Northern Iowa, Iowa was the only Power Five school.

“Some guys just have a certain knack, or air, about them,” Ferentz said. “He’s had that. It’s a little bit ironic because he was not a five-star recruit. Took us a while to figure it out. Thank goodness we did.

“Since the day he walked in here, he acts like a football player,” Ferentz added. “… He makes decisions, has a knack for doing things the right way. That’s good to see. He’s got a confidence about him, an air about him, just the way he is naturally. He’s one of those guys that people gravitate towards.”

LaPorta considered entering the NFL Draft after his junior season in 2021. After receiving feedback from the NFL regarding his draft status, however, he decided to return to Iowa for his senior season.

“I had to think about the opportunity it presented for my family as well,” LaPorta, a business major, said. “But being able to come back and finish up my degree and play my senior year with my boys, I mean, I don’t know how I can pass that up. There’s no place like the University of Iowa. I truly believe that.”

RELATED: Jack Campbell, Sam LaPorta announce they will return to Iowa for senior seasons

Now, as a senior, LaPorta is excited for the chance to become a leader in the locker room.

The 6-foot-4 tight end led the Hawkeyes with 670 receiving yards in the 2021-22 season — almost doubling freshman wide receiver Keagan Johnson’s second-place mark of 352. LaPorta averaged 12.6 yards per catch.

Iowa has three incoming freshmen to the tight end room: Addison Ostrenga from Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, Kyson Van Vugt from Hull, Iowa, and Cael Vanderbush from Plainfield, Indiana.

“I feel like I have to start with the young guys in the room … coaching young guys, trying to let them pick my brain a little bit,” LaPorta said. “Hopefully they don’t make the same mistakes that I did in the past, because I’m teaching them that. Of course, expanding to the offense as a unit and the team as a whole, I’m excited for my leadership role. I feel like it’s continuously growing.”

LaPorta started two games as a freshman in 2019. But, he said, he didn’t really know what was going on. LaPorta collected 15 receptions for 188 yards while playing behind former Hawkeye and current Denver Bronco Shaun Beyer in the 2019 football season.

“As a freshman, I really didn’t know a whole lot,” LaPorta said. “I was kind of just like running routes, the routes that they were telling me … like, ‘Hey Sam, go out here and run a basic route.’ Oh, I can do that.”

Now, LaPorta said, he has a more diverse understanding of the Hawkeye offensive playbook. This season, he said, the entire Hawkeye offense is trying to improve. Iowa ranked 10th in the Big Ten in total offense in 2021 with 23.4 points per game. The Hawkeyes also ranked 109th out of 130 FBS teams in passing offense, with just 180 yards per game.

The Hawkeyes, however, ranked above six other Big Ten institutions: Northwestern, Indiana, Rutgers, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Illinois in passing offense.

“Just the implementation of small things, and we have a lot of returners,” LaPorta said. “So, being able to, you know, pick the minds of veterans and continuously learning. It’s always a process — ‘The hay’s never in the barn,’ we say, and we’ve never arrived. So, continuing to grow at the little things.”