From Iowa football to the Detroit Lions: Jack Campbell, Sam LaPorta stay teammates in NFL

The Hawkeye roommates will stay together in the NFC North. Campbell was picked in the first round with the 18th selection, while LaPorta went 33rd overall.


Ayrton Breckenridge

Iowa linebacker Jack Campbell watches the ball during a football game between Iowa and South Dakota State at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 3, 2022. The Hawkeyes defeated the Jackrabbits, 7-3. (Ayrton Breckenridge/The Daily Iowan)

Chloe Peterson, Sports Editor

The NFL Draft didn’t stop former Hawkeyes Jack Campbell and Sam LaPorta from being teammates.

Both Campbell and LaPorta were drafted by the Detroit Lions this weekend. Campbell, a linebacker, went 18th overall to Detroit on Thursday night, while LaPorta went 33rd overall — the second pick in the second round — on Friday.

For the Lions, drafting multiple Hawkeyes came down to the type of program that head coach Kirk Ferentz runs.

“With coach Ferentz, like [Alabama head coach Nick Saban], you kind of know what player you’re getting,” Brad Holmes, Detroit Lions executive vice president and general manager, said on Friday night. “At the end of the day, they’re good football players, but they’re also the right human beings. Coming from an established program like Iowa, like Alabama, we don’t do that intentionally, but they just happen to produce some really good football players.”

LaPorta and Campbell were roommates throughout their college career in Iowa City. As a linebacker-tight end duo, they also frequently matched up against each other in practice.

So when it came to which person he’d want to continue being teammates with, LaPorta said he manifested staying with Campbell.

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. LaPorta caught five passes for 56 yards. The Hawkeyes became the 2022 TransPerfect Music City Bowl champions after defeating the Wildcats, 21-0. (Grace Smith)

“I’m so excited to be teammates with Jack again,” LaPorta said. “I shot him a congratulations text [Friday] night. I kept getting asked in the combine interview process what teammate I would want to bring with me to my new team, and I kept saying, ‘Jack Campbell, Jack Campbell.’ I think the kid really speaks for himself, a phenomenal football player, even better human, and I just can’t wait to be back in the building with him again.”

The Lions have a strong history of drafting Iowa players, starting with Erwin Prasse in 1940. Detroit has used a bevy of first-round draft picks on Iowa players, including quarterback Chuck Long in 1986 and offensive tackle Riley Reiff in 2013.

“When you come from Iowa, everyone has that connection to coach Ferentz and the staff there, so as soon as you get up and meet them, you feel like you’ve known them for a long time,” Campbell said. “I’m excited to represent that [Iowa to Detroit] pipeline, and kind of put Iowa’s best foot forward here in Detroit.”

The highest draft pick the Lions have used on a Hawkeye was in 2019, when Detroit took former Iowa tight end T.J. Hockenson with the eighth overall pick.

Hockenson played for Detroit for four years before he was traded to the Vikings in the middle of the 2022 season.

Now, Detroit has a new Hawkeye tight end.

“I showed up as a freshman and I was just hoping I could sneak up onto the field,” LaPorta said. “And four years later, I leave the University of Iowa and feel like I’m right up there with names like T.J. Hockenson, Dallas Clark, and Noah Fant. That’s something I’m really proud of. I’m definitely going to have to lean on the leadership of T.J. and the guys in the building, in the tight end room with the Lions.”

Campbell and LaPorta join a Lions draft class that includes 12th overall pick Jahmyr Gibbs, a running back from Alabama; 45th pick Brian Branch, a cornerback from Alabama, 68th pick Hendon Hooker, a quarterback from Tennessee, 96th pick Brodric Martin, a defensive tackle from Kentucky; 152nd pick Coby Sorsdal, an offensive tackle from William and Mary; and Antoine Green, a wide receiver from North Carolina.

“The foundation that this program is built on is just great, great individuals all working toward a common goal,” Campbell said. “And that common goal is to go win a Super Bowl, and anything less than that is unacceptable.”