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How Jack Campbell, Sam LaPorta saved Iowa football

We profile Detroit Lions draft picks Jack Campbell and Sam LaPorta with a deep conversation with Iowa writer Tom Kakert.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 24 Iowa at Rutgers Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

As we have come to learn about the Detroit Lions under head coach Dan Campbell and general manager Brad Holmes, this franchise now puts a high priority on football character. It is no longer a negotiable option for a Detroit Lions player to live, eat, and breathe football—it’s the very first requirement to even be considered for this team.

In the 2023 NFL Draft, the Lions picked two players from the Iowa football team who are prototypes to the kind of people they want representing Detroit. Not only were both first-round pick Jack Campbell and second-round pick Sam LaPorta team captains, but when turbulence hit the Iowa team early in the season, both publicly stepped up in a huge way.

On Thursday, we had a conversation with Iowa beat writer Tom Kakert, and he explained after the Hawkeyes won an absolute eye-sore of a game—an unconvincing 7-3 win over South Dakota State in the season opener—both Campbell and LaPorta made sure there was not going to be internal drama with the team.

“I am convinced that Jack Campbell saved the Iowa football season,” Kakert said. “No one will ever be able to convince me otherwise, because when you have an offense that was struggling as much as Iowa’s was last year. The fingers start to point in the locker room at some point. The defense, which was hellaciously good, stuffing everything and winning games 7-to-3 to open the season and doing everything they can, the fingers (could) start pointing.

“Jack was the leader of the defense and Jack would have none of that. He would just basically say, ‘We just got to do a better job on defense. We’re not going to point fingers.’ So nobody did, because he was the most respected guy in the locker room and everybody looked to him. And it wasn’t like he’s a menacing figure, it’s just the way he carries himself is different. He’s almost humble to a fault. His kindness is off the charts.”

Note: You can watch Jack Campbell’s passionate speech to the media here.

Kakert also explained that while LaPorta is typically very friendly and welcoming to the media, even he got angry around this time when reporters seemed to try and sow a division between the offense and defense.

“It was one of the rare times where Sam kinda got pissed. He got angry,” Kakert explained. “I think the line of questioning was trying to insinuate there was a kind of divide. ‘The offense stinks’ and everything. He was ticked, and he let us have it back a little bit, which was fine. That was the first time I’ve ever seen him get angry at us, because he’s usually the life of the party when you’re talking to him and having fun and you usually end up laughing about some stuff more than you end up having an uncomfortable moment.”

Kakert shared a lot of great stories about both players in our 40-minute chat with him, and we also dove into what each player thrives at on the field and may need to improve upon at the NFL level.

You can check out our extremely informative conversation below, and if you want more information on Iowa football, you can head to Kakert’s website HawkeyeReport.com.

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