Iowa football tight end Sam LaPorta to serve as emergency backup quarterback in Music City Bowl after recovering from injury

Coming off November knee surgery, the senior has been taking practice reps under center in preparation for the Hawkeyes’ bowl game on Dec. 31.


Iowa tight end Sam LaPorta and Iowa quarterback Joe Labas practice snaps during a 2022 Transperfect Music City Bowl Iowa football practice at Franklin Road Academy in Nashville, Tenn., on Tuesday, Dec. 27, 2022. LaPorta will serve as the Hawkeyes’ emergency backup quarterback during the 2022 Transperfect Music City Bowl on Saturday.

Chloe Peterson, Sports Editor

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Iowa football tight end Sam LaPorta will be pulling double-duty on Saturday at the Music City Bowl. 

The senior pass-catcher confirmed Tuesday he will be the emergency backup quarterback if both starter Joe Labas and backup Carson May are unable to play on Saturday.

“I think emergency is the key word there,” LaPorta said Tuesday. “I don’t know if it’s best for the Hawks to put me back there, but I will surely do it to try to add value to the team if that’s what I’m called to do.”

LaPorta, along with wide receiver Diante Vines, took reps at quarterback at the Hawkeyes’ practice for the Music City Bowl at Franklin Road Academy in Nashville on Tuesday.

Iowa quarterback Spencer Petras observes a quarterback drill during a 2022 Transperfect Music City Bowl Iowa football practice at Franklin Road Academy in Nashville, Tenn., on Tuesday, Dec. 27, 2022. Petras started all 12 of Iowa’s regular season games this year and suffered a season-ending injury against Nebraska on Nov. 25. (Grace Smith)

Labas and May are the only two quarterbacks able to play on Iowa’s roster for the bowl game. Second-string Alex Padilla entered the transfer portal following the regular season, while starter Spencer Petras had season-ending surgery on his throwing arm following an injury against Nebraska on Nov. 25.

At 6-foot-4, 249-pounds, LaPorta briefly played quarterback at Highland High School in Illinois, competing in three games under center for his alma mater.

“I always like to joke with Spence that I think I was 2-1 as a varsity quarterback [in high school],” LaPorta said Tuesday. “I always joke with the quarterbacks about that, and they’re like, ‘Shut up, Sam, we don’t want to hear that anymore.’”

LaPorta is coming off an injury, as he tore his meniscus against Minnesota in Minneapolis on Nov. 19. LaPorta spun on a 24-yard reception on fourth down in the first quarter on Nov. 19, and he knew something was wrong after the play.

“I turned up, and I kind of just felt something pop in my knee,” LaPorta said in a Zoom press conference with reporters on Dec. 22. “Went back in for one more play and then didn’t feel too good.”

LaPorta left the game and did not return after the first quarter. A couple days later, he had surgery to get his meniscus scoped.

“I got my meniscus scoped, got it cleaned up, I tore it,” LaPorta said. “It’s feeling good. I’m kind of getting acclimated back. I’ve been running around, it’s been feeling good. … I feel like I’m going to be 100 percent, I’m going to be ready to go.”

The senior missed his final game at Kinnick Stadium, but he was preparing to play in the Big Ten Championship Game if Iowa made the trip to Indianapolis on Dec. 4 — less than two weeks after surgery.

Now, LaPorta is five weeks out from surgery and prepared to play at Nissan Stadium in Nashville on Dec. 31.

“He’s back on the field and seems to be doing great, so happy about that certainly,” head coach Kirk Ferentz said of LaPorta on Dec. 21.

And LaPorta hopes he’ll stay at his original position in his final game as a Hawkeye.

“I still hope I’m playing tight end on Saturday,” LaPorta said. “There’s way more that goes into playing quarterback than you’d think. Anything from getting the play call to snap, setting the buckpoint, so many things.”

LaPorta will likely declare for the 2023 NFL Draft following the bowl game, leaving the reins of the Hawkeye tight end room to sophomore Luke Lachey, freshman Addison Ostrenga, and Michigan transfer Erick All.

“They’re bright kids, they have big futures ahead of them,” LaPorta said of the Hawkeyes’ younger tight ends. “They’re really just trying to take in as much information as they can right now. Bowl prep and especially spring ball are great developmental times. Guys really take tremendous strides.”

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