Sam LaPorta has exceeded even the loftiest of expectations for his as a rookie this season. With 74 receptions for 776 yards and nine touchdowns heading into Saturday night's game against the Dallas Cowboys, he owns the Detroit Lions' single-season record for touchdowns by a tight end with time to set all the single-season franchise records for the position.
With his first catch of the game against the Cowboys, an eight-yarder, LaPorta passed Brandon Pettigrew and set the new Lions record for receiving yards in a season. Pettigrew had 777 yards in 2011.
LaPorta is two catches shy of tying Pettigrew's record of 83 catches by a Lions' tight end, also in 2011.
Dan Campbell sees similarities between Sam LaPorta and a former teammate
Before the fantastic rookie season LaPorta is putting together, Jeremy Shockey had a Pro Bowl season as a rookie tight end for the New York Giants in 2002 (74 catches for 894 yards). He had a teammate below him on the depth chart named Dan Campbell, who's of course now the Lions' head coach.
Shockey and LaPorta could not be more different in look and personality. But Campbell, via Justin Rogers of the Detroit News, sees similarities between the two as competitors between the lines.
"But they have this competitive fire that's very similar. I would say that Sam is able to keep his much more reserved, or in check, just outwardly. Jeremy much more wore his emotion on his sleeve. But when you put a guy in front of that guy, I don't care if it's in practice at the end of the year in a one-or-one, or it's in a big-time game, he's going to be at his best and refuses to lose. LaPorta has that. I'm telling you, that's a rare quality, even in this league."
LaPorta, with 81 on the season now, has tied Keith Jackson (81 for the Philadelphia Eagles in 1988) for the NFL rookie record for catches by a tight end. One catch in Week 18 against the Minnesota Vikings, and the record is LaPorta's alone.