Tight end Sam LaPorta will never forget when someone referred to him as 'underwhelming' ahead of his junior year in college at Iowa. It's something LaPorta took personally, and it certainly wasn't a word associated with his game after his junior and senior seasons at Iowa when he combined to catch 111 passes for 1,327 yards.
It wasn't a term that crossed anyone's mind watching LaPorta take part in Saturday's open rookie minicamp practice in Allen Park.
LaPorta was making catches all over the field and even stood out in a special teams coverage drill against Iowa teammate and No. 18 pick linebacker Jack Campbell. LaPorta put a juke move on Campbell that got teammates and coaches fired up. LaPorta even shot a look back and a wave at Campbell after getting by him.
"That's my guy," LaPorta said of Campbell. "I was roommates with Jack the last couple years, we lived in a house with all of our buddies, and it's just backyard football. You're just going against your buddy. You're competing and that's what we all love.
"It's definitely fun to go against him. He gets me and I get him every once in a while. That's dating back to Iowa the last four years. You win some and you lose some."
Campbell admitted after practice LaPorta got the better of him on that rep, but something tells me Campbell will have his fair share of wins too in a matchup the Lions hope to see on the practice field for a long time.
The Lions used the third pick in the second round to take LaPorta, and they think his play style and run-after-catch ability fit perfectly into coordinator Ben Johnson's offensive scheme. LaPorta showed some of that off Saturday and it was pretty impressive.
"I think I can play with the best of them," LaPorta said of that underwhelming comment he received his junior year. "If I don't impress you, it doesn't really matter. My play will do the talking, hopefully."
He will have an opportunity to make an early impact competing with Brock Wright, James Mitchell and Shane Zylstra for reps at tight end. LaPorta can play inline or out wide. He's very smooth running routes and he finds a way to consistently create space between him and defenders. When he gets the ball in his hands, he's a creative runner with power.
View photos from Day 2 of Detroit Lions rookie minicamp on Saturday, May 13, 2023 in Allen Park, Mich.
LaPorta is joining a pretty explosive offense in Detroit that finished last season fourth overall in the NFL in total yards.
"Hopefully I'm in a position to utilize my skillset and just do whatever the coaches ask," LaPorta said of how he sees himself fitting in. "Just doing it all the best I can."
LaPorta said getting acclimated and learning the ropes is key right now and that only intensifies when the rookies join the veterans.