ALLEN PARK – Detroit Lions rookie tight end Sam LaPorta mirrors a story similar to that of Amon-Ra St. Brown. Just a few seasons ago, St. Brown was picked in the 4th round, 112th overall. The selection was a testament to the Lions’ knack for uncovering the overlooked, but also a reminder of the wide receivers that teams around the NFL desired more than the USC standout.
St. Brown draws strength from the 16 receivers chosen before him in the 2021 NFL draft. His memory is a roaring flame that serves as a powerful catalyst for his motivation. Saturday’s Lions rookie mini camp saw LaPorta echo a similar sentiment.
Like St. Brown, LaPorta is Fueled by Doubt
LaPorta recalls his junior year at Iowa, when a voice of football authority labeled him “underwhelming.” He shares the story with a gritty edge lacing his words:
Somebody called me underwhelming one time and I was like…alright. I think I can play with the best of them.
He’s not forgetting, nor forgiving, that tag.
A New Den in Detroit
Detroit is now home for LaPorta, sharing a locker room with college roommate and teammate, linebacker Jack Campbell. The Lions made Campbell their first round, 18th overall pick of the 2023 NFL draft. The duo wasted no time in reigniting their competitive spark in practice. LaPorta recounts:
It’s definitely fun to go against him. You know, he gets me and I get him every once in a while. And that’s dating back to Iowa for the last four years.
The Friendly Battle of the Hawkeyes
LaPorta’s playful rivalry with Campbell came to life in Detroit’s minicamp. As roommates for several years, their shared battles were numerous, transforming their house into an everyday football field.
That’s my guy, Jack… I was roommates with Jack the last couple years. We lived in a house with all of our buddies and, you know, it’s just like backyard football. Not actually, but like, you’re just going against your buddy… you know, you’re competing. And that’s what we all love. We love football and it’s so fun to do it against Jack.
The duo’s bond, a throwback to their Hawkeye roots, now fuels their competitive spirit in Detroit. Their shared history and mutual respect make every scrimmage feel like a casual game amongst friends, yet with the undercurrent of fierce competition that defines their love for the sport.
Thursday Night Showdown
The Lions will kick off the NFL season on Thursday Night Football, facing the reigning Super Bowl Champions, Kansas City Chiefs.
LaPorta and Campbell will need to harness their Hawkeye synergy to challenge the Chiefs, fronted by the dynamo duo of Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce. When LaPorta was asked about learning of their week one matchup, the rookie tight end shared his reaction:
Really cool. Maybe I’m a little naïve… the hair on the back of my neck stood up. I got chills when I heard we were going to Arrowhead to open up the season. So, you know, I’m living my dream playing ball
Despite the looming Chiefs challenge, LaPorta’s calm confidence shines through. He acknowledges his steep learning curve, focusing on what he can bring to the team.
The production, for sure. The number four offense last year in the league… definitely hope to be number one. The standard is always going to be at the highest level… Hopefully I’m in position to utilize my skillset and just do whatever the coaches ask. Just do it well, the best I can.
The focus in his voice underscored the dreamy glint in his eyes make it clear: this rookie is more than ready for the big leagues.
The Lion in Waiting
During Saturday’s practice, LaPorta emerged as a favorite target for fellow rookie, QB Adrian Martinez. The Lions’ game plan clearly involves exploiting LaPorta’s versatility as a pass-catcher. His size, fluidity, and soft hands for a tight end make him a standout.
The echoes of past doubts and underestimations serve as a catalyst for his fiery ambition today. Once considered underwhelming, Sam LaPorta now stands on the verge of a roar that promises to reverberate through the NFL. The league, one can say, is on notice.
For more from our Detroit Lions beat writer, Matt Broder, check him out on Twitter here: @mattbro21
Tweet: @WoodwoodSports or comment on your favorite social media platform!