Former Iowa football tight end Sam LaPorta picked by Detroit Lions in second round of 2023 NFL Draft

The Hawkeye will head to the Lions as the 33rd overall pick — second in the second round.


Grace Smith

Iowa tight end Sam LaPorta runs the ball during the 2022 TransPerfect Music City Bowl at Nissan Stadium in Nashville on Saturday, Dec. 31, 2022. (Grace Smith/The Daily Iowan)

Chloe Peterson, Sports Editor

Former Hawkeye Sam LaPorta is continuing Iowa football’s tight end legacy.

The Detroit Lions picked LaPorta with the No. 33 pick in the second round of the NFL Draft on Friday night. He’ll join former Hawkeye linebacker Jack Campbell, who was drafted 18th overall to the Lions on Thursday night.

“I think I’m an extremely versatile player,” LaPorta said in March. “You’d like to go to an organization that utilizes your strength, so I’m really excited for the team I end up with … hopefully I make the most of it.”

LaPorta is the third Hawkeye to be picked in the first or second round of the NFL Draft in the last five years. TJ Hockenson and Noah Fant were selected eighth to the Detroit Lions and 20th to the Denver Broncos, respectively, in the 2019 draft.

The Highland, Illinois, product started 12 of the Hawkeyes’ 13 games in 2022, missing Iowa’s last regular season game because of a torn meniscus. He was Iowa’s leading receiver in 2022, registering 657 yards and one touchdown.

His production led him to the Big Ten Tight End of the Year award in his senior season, and he was a finalist for the John Mackey Award — given to the best tight end in the nation.

Just four weeks after undergoing meniscus surgery, LaPorta showcased his versatility in the Music City Bowl in December 2022, acting as the third-string, emergency quarterback for the Hawkeyes.

Then, he started going through the NFL Draft process.

“You only go through this process once,” LaPorta said. “Take everything with a grain of salt, don’t take anything for granted, and keep continuing to work hard.”

LaPorta met with 20-25 teams at the NFL Combine in early March, he said, and had formal interviews with 14 of them. He registered at 6-foot-3 and 245 pounds, running a 4.59 40-yard dash.

“It’s very exciting times,” LaPorta said about the draft process in March. “Also a little bit anxious and nervous, because we want to perform at the highest level. We train super hard, we have been here, and we have for the last couple months for this sort of track meet.”

Now, LaPorta’s months of stress paid off. 

And through his entire NFL Draft process, he knew he could lean on his support system.

“You really know and can recognize your support system when you go through a process like this,” LaPorta said. “My family, my girlfriend, have been extremely supportive of everything I’ve been doing and how I’ve been feeling.”