George Kittle was the ninth tight end selected in the 2017 NFL Draft, but he quickly morphed into one of the NFL’s most imposing players, with a complete package of size, pass-catching ability and blocking skill.
Kittle also helped to put Iowa’s development of tight ends on the national map.
In 2018, Kittle set an NFL single-season record for receiving yards by a tight end with 1,377. He followed up that breakthrough performance with a first-team All-Pro selection in 2019 as the centerpiece of an offense that contributed to the 49ers’ NFC championship.
MORE: How Kittle is still making an impact for the 49ers despite lack of targets
If there is a debate about which school is the true Tight End U, Kittle left no doubt where he stands when he introduced himself as “George Kittle from Tight End University” before a game in 2021.
— NFL (@NFL) September 27, 2021
Kittle might be the most dominant tight end to come out of Iowa, but he wasn’t the program’s first big name at the position. From Dallas Clark to TJ Hockenson, Iowa’s case for being Tight End University has only strengthened over the years.
Why is Iowa called Tight End University?
ESPN listed Iowa No. 2 in its Tight End U rankings earlier this year, trailing only Miami, but many of the Hurricanes’ products — all but David Njoku and Greg Olsen — are far removed from the NFL. If you ask Kittle, he’ll tell you Iowa is the real Tight End University.
Notable NFL tight ends produced by Iowa this century include Kittle, Dallas Clark, TJ Hockenson, Noah Fant, Brandon Myers, Tony Moeaki, CJ Fiedorowicz and Scott Chandler. Clark was a Super Bowl champion and All-Pro during a long career with the Colts.
In 2019, two years after Kittle was drafted, Hockenson and Fant became the first tight end duo from the same school to be drafted together in the first round. Hockenson has a chance to join Kittle and Clark among the very best tight ends produced by the school.
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And another Iowa tight end may soon join the ranks. Sam LaPorta has more than 1,000 receiving yards since the start of last season despite the Hawkeyes’ broken passing game. He’s projected to be a Day 2 pick in the 2023 draft.
While LaPorta won’t enter the league with the same fanfare as Hockenson or Fant, it’s easy to forget Kittle was a little-known fifth-round pick in 2017.
George Kittle stats