Highland High School senior wide receiver Sam LaPorta will fulfill a lifelong dream next fall when he begins his career as an NCAA Division I college football player.
As an Illinois High School Football Coaches Association all-state selection a year ago, he helped lead the Bulldogs to a 12-1 season and a berth in the IHSA Class 4A semifinals. LaPorta possesses great hands and also has the rare combination of the power to break tackles and speed to break into the open field.
Those qualities as a football player, along with his academic excellence in classroom, have made the 6-foot-3, 215-pound athlete a recruit worth watching heading into the 2018 season. Coaches and scouts from Big Ten, Mid-American and Ivy League conference football programs are among those who have been in contact with the Bulldogs' three-sport star.
"I've had a lot of interest, and I've talked to a lot coaches and scouts, which is really exciting. It's every kid's dream to have a lot of college coaches knocking at your door," LaPorta said last week. "Right now, I'm just working out and going to a lot of camps — trying to get noticed even more."
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LaPorta competed last week at the Lindenwood University camp in St. Charles, Missouri, and Sunday at the Northwestern University camp in Evanston. He was scheduled to compete Monday at the Purdue University prospect camp in West Lafayette, Indiana.
LaPorta has been one of the top offensive weapons in the Mississippi Valley Conference during the past two seasons. After hauling in 50 receptions for 897 yards and seven touchdowns as a sophomore, LaPorta had 64 catches for 1,295 yards and 20 touchdowns as a junior.
According to Rivals, LaPorta already has offers from Eastern Michigan, Central Michigan, Southern Illinois University Carbondale, Illinois State, Northern Iowa, Western Illinois and Yale.
Although LaPorta could play the wide receiver position at the college level, many college scouts project him as a tight end or H-Back at the Division I level.
"That's what some coaches have told me. Some schools would want to put another 25-30 pounds of muscle on and get stronger. I think some are looking me as more of an H-back — someone who can line up off the line of scrimmage, block and be able to go out and catch the football," LaPorta said. "I run a time of 4.6 seconds in the 40 (yard dash), and I don't think putting on the extra 25 pounds would hurt that. I'm working hard."
Highland coach Jim Warnecke said he has no doubt that LaPorta can play and make an impact early in his college career.
"I think people see his shoulders and hips, and the fact that he could put put on 30-40 pounds and not lose a step. I know a lot of teams really like his potential as a college tight end or an H-back. Someone who could line up off the line of scrimmage and be able to beat a linebacker," Warnecke said. "Whatever program lands Sam, though, is going to be very happy.
"Sam is a tremendous kid and football player. He's a little shy, but also very humble and a young man who puts the success of the team first and foremost. Academically, he's excellent, and he's just a very nice young man."
While LaPorta has offers from several D-I programs, he has also received interest from Iowa State in the Big 12; Big Ten schools Iowa, Northwestern and Purdue; and Cornell and Brown from the Ivy League. LaPorta said he plans on taking an unofficial visit to Yale later this summer.
The ideal school for LaPorta would be a member of the Big Ten.
"I would like to stay in the Midwest and I have always loved Big Ten football," LaPorta said. "I'm thinking about possibly majoring in engineering, but I still want to wait and see what is out there in terms of other schools.
"Right now, I have no timetable on when I want to sign. I would be perfectly happy waiting until the end of the season to decide. But if I get an offer from a school that I feel will be the best situation for me, then I would have no trouble committing right then and there. We'll have to wait and see."