Iowa football tight end Sam LaPorta named Big Ten Conference tight end of the Year
One day after several Iowa football defensive players were honored with All-Big Ten selections, one Hawkeye offensive player represented the team on the all-conference teams.
Senior tight end Sam LaPorta was named to the All-Big Ten first team by coaches and media. He also was named the Kwalick-Clark Tight End of the Year. He is the second Iowa player to win the Big Ten honor (T.J. Hockenson in 2018).
Michigan and Ohio State tied for the most honorees on the first team with four selections each.
Accolades are rolling in for LaPorta, who on Tuesday was named one of three finalists for the Mackey Award, given to the nation’s top tight end. LaPorta missed the Nebraska game with a leg injury but still leads the team (by far) with 53 receptions and 601 receiving yards. Georgia’s Brock Bowers and Notre Dame’s Michael Mayer are the other Mackey finalists.
LaPorta decided to forego the 2022 NFL Draft to return to Iowa for one final season, and he will leave the program as one of the most decorated tight ends in school history. He ranks first in career catches (148) and second in receiving yards (1,730). He's been a mainstay in Iowa's offense and this season came with new responsibilities. Because of injury issues at wide receiver, LaPorta often lined up at outside receiver to fill a void. His versatility was perhaps his biggest asset this season. He was the most reliable player on an offense that struggled throughout 2022.
It's unknown if LaPorta will suit up in Iowa's bowl game later this month as he's still recovering from injury. Regardless of his status, this week's awards announcements solidify LaPorta's place within Iowa's storied tight end lineage.
Elsewhere on offense, the Hawkeyes saw three other All-Big Ten selections as honorable mentions: tight end Luke Lachey, offensive lineman Mason Richman and running back Kaleb Johnson.
Lachey, a redshirt sophomore emerged this season as a reliable weapon in Iowa's offense and appears primed to take over for LaPorta next season. He totaled 25 catches for 362 yards and three touchdowns and his last two performances against Minnesota (five catches for 77 yards) and Nebraska (seven catches for 89 yards and one touchdown) were particularly impressive as he filled in for an injured LaPorta.
Richman, a sophomore, has been one of the constants on the Hawkeyes' offensive line over the last two seasons. He entered this season with the most career starts of the group (12) and started all 12 regular-season games this season. The offensive line will be one of the positions of intrigue entering the off-season and 2023, and Richman will be seen as an anchor for that group moving forward.
Perhaps the biggest surprise on offense this season was the emergence of Johnson, a true freshman. Since his arrival in the summer he's impressed the coaching staff with his work ethic, and it materialized into a historic campaign. His 762 rushing yards surpassed the previous freshman record set by Tyler Goodson in 2019 (638). Johnson averaged 5.4 yards per carry and scored six touchdowns.
The Big Ten also announced that safety Kaevon Merriweather was named a Big Ten Sportsmanship Award honoree; he was named to the honorable mention defensive team on Tuesday.
Between the offense, defense and special teams, Iowa totaled 15 All-Big Ten honorees this season.