April 29, 2013
By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN -- It never hurts when your dad sits in the stands with an NFL coach when you're playing college football.
Just ask Philip Lutzenkirchen.
Lutzenkirchen received a call from St. Louis coach Jeff Fisher seconds after last weekend's NFL draft ended to offer the former Auburn tight end a free agent contract, which Lutzenkirchen happily accepted.
They sort of go way back. Fisher and Lutzenkirchen's dad, Mike, sat together for a handful of games during the 2010 season to watch their sons play at Auburn, and the memory of Lutzenkirchen having a big year during the Tigers' national championship run stayed with Fisher.
And that was after Philip Lutzenkirchen served as player host for Auburn safety-to-be Trent Fisher during his recruiting visit.
Auburn has become a free agent pipeline for St. Louis this year. Joining Lutzenkirchen on the way to the Rams' May 9 rookie camp are former Auburn receiver Emory Blake and safety Daren Bates. Running back Onterio McCalebb and lineman John Sullen signed free agent deals with Cincinnati and defensive back T'Sharvan Bell is speaking with several teams.
Defensive end Corey Lemonier was drafted in the third round by the San Francisco 49ers.
Next stop for Lutzenkirchen, Blake and Bates? The Rams' rookie camp.
"I've always thought a lot of him. I think it's a good fit," Lutzenkirchen said Monday.
Lutzenkirchen leaves Auburn ranked as one of the school's most effective tight ends. He ranks first in school history for a tight end in touchdowns (14), second in tight end catches (59) and tight end yards (628).
His senior year was cut short after six games when a hip injury became too painful.
He may be best remembered for scoring the go-ahead touchdown -- and doing a little dance -- in a 28-27 comeback win over Alabama in 2010, one of the final stops before the BCS national championship.
Lutzenkirchen said other NFL teams called Saturday, "but knowing Coach Fisher and how he develops players and that he wanted me made a difference."
Lutzenkirchen had surgery after the sixth game last season to repair a labrum. He couldn't play in the Senior Bowl because of it, though he did attend the NFL Combine.
"I heard if I had come out last year, I would have been taken in the third or fourth round," he said. "But I've never regretted coming back to play my senior year and getting my degree. We didn't finish the way we wanted to, but I still thought I'd be a fourth- or fifth-round pick in this year's draft, so it was a long and frustrating day for me Saturday not getting taken."
Lutzenkirchen said he's healthy again.
"I'm good to go. Now, it's just making myself the player I once was so I can show all my skills," he said.
As the draft began to wind down, Lutzenkirchen said free agency became more attractive.
"Once it became the seventh round, I would have rather have been a free agent. It gives you a chance to look at some of the numbers on a roster," he said.
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