Sam LaPorta’s expectations high for Iowa football tight ends

The rising senior discussed Luke Lachey’s growth and the addition of Lafayette transfer Steven Stilianos


Jerod Ringwald

Iowa tight end Sam LaPorta interacts with a media team during day one of Big Ten Media Days at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Ind., on Tuesday, July 26, 2022. Reporters stopped LaPorta to ask if LaPorta watched other Iowa sports. LaPorta said he watches a lot of Iowa women’s basketball because of Caitlin Clark, saying Clark would beat him one on one. The event marked the 50th annual Big Ten Media Days.

Chris Werner, Assistant Sports Editor

INDIANAPOLIS — The University of Iowa has been referred to by another name by football pundits and fans alike: Tight End University. 

George Kittle, a former Hawkeye and starting tight end for the San Fransisco 49ers, has often used the term to describe his alma mater during player introductions of primetime NFL broadcasts. With the likes of Dallas Clark, T.J. Hockenson, and Noah Fant all having played the position at Iowa, Kittle has a case.

Sam LaPorta may be the next graduate of Tight End University.

LaPorta, a senior, is a 2022 Preseason All-American and first-team All-Big Ten selection. While the Highland, Illinois, product projects to be one of the top tight ends in the conference and the nation, the Hawkeye standout should have a solid supporting cast of TEs around him.

Redshirt sophomore Luke Lachey and graduate transfer Steven Stilianos will both play important roles in 2022, LaPorta said. 

Lachey, from Columbus, Ohio, appeared in 13 games a season ago for Iowa and reeled in eight receptions for 133 total yards. 

LaPorta said Lachey is building his skills and his body this offseason. 

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“I think he’s taken great strides just like everybody else,” LaPorta said of Lachey. “Another full offseason under somebody’s belt is great for development, and the way he’s processing the game and also building his body, we’re really excited.”

At Grandview High School, Lachey played tight end, wide receiver, and defensive back on the gridiron while also competing in basketball and track. 

Conversely, LaPorta said Stilianos, while new to the Iowa system, doesn’t have nearly as much physical development left to do. 

Stilianos played four seasons at Lafayette, an FCS school, before transferring to Iowa this offseason. 

“He brings a veteran approach which is different than … when you get new guys, they’re usually young guys and you’re trying to adapt to them and teach them  the game and how to conduct yourself outside the facility and in the facility,” LaPorta said. “With Steve, him being a veteran …  it’s great to see his perspective on things and I think he’s gonna contribute a lot this fall.”

Stilianos, a two-time All-Patriot League first-team selection at Lafayette, made 65 career receptions for 534 yards and five touchdowns. 

At 6-foot-5, 264 pounds, Stilianos is 12 pounds heavier than any tight end on Iowa’s current roster. 

“He’s a big dude,” LaPorta said of Stilianos. “And he’s much more nimble than you might think he is. Somebody made a joke at him the other day, like, ‘Oh, you’re gonna be another [offensive] tackle.’ It’s like, no, you should see him run down the seem and catch the ball. Great hands, really nimble, light on his feet. So I’m really pumped for him.”

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LaPorta said that Stilianos will give the Hawkeyes another reliable option at tight end, and while some people might question how many tight ends is too many, LaPorta doesn’t see that as an issue. 

LaPorta jokingly said, if it were up to him, he’d have as many fullbacks and tight ends on the field as possible. 

“I think the workload is evenly distributed,” LaPorta said.  “Not that me and Luke had too much on our plate last year, but I think it can never hurt to have too deep of a roster. Like, if you wanted to take the option of having two great guys on the field or three great guys and they get to distribute the work amongst themselves, I think anybody in the right mind would be like, ‘yeah, give me the three guys.’”