June 29, 2014
Philip Lutzenkirchen remembered as good guy on and off the field
By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. -- Auburn coach Gus Malzahn remembers Philip Lutzenkirchen as a "great young man who touched the lives of everyone he knew in a positive way."
The former Auburn star died in a car accident near LaGrange, Ga., early Sunday morning. He caught more touchdown passes than any tight end in school history and was on the receiving end of the score that completed the Tigers' remarkable comeback win at Alabama in 2010.
Lutzenkirchen, 23, holds the school record for tight ends with 14 touchdown catches, and is second at that position with 59 catches and 628 receiving yards.
Lutzenkirchen is best remembered for his go-ahead fourth-quarter touchdown against Alabama that completed a huge comeback that helped send the Tigers to the national championship. He did a little dance after the score -- it became known as the "Lutzie" -- and he accepted the good-natured ribbing that came with it.
Lutzenkirchen will be remembered as one of the most popular players in recent Auburn history.
"On the field, Philip was a great player and competitor, but more importantly, he was a great teammate and friend off the field," Malzahn said. "My thoughts and prayers are with Philip’s parents, Mike and Mary, and all of his family and friends who are grieving his passing. This is a sad day for the entire Auburn family. I find peace knowing that even though Philip was taken from us too soon, that he lived his life to the fullest, leaving a lifetime of great memories for his family and friends to cherish forever."
His former head coach, Gene Chizik, said Lutzenkirchen "was what every parent aspires their son to be."
Athletics Director Jay Jacobs called Lutzenkirchen's death "a devastating tragedy for his family, the Auburn family and his countless friends. Today is also a profoundly sad day for the Auburn Athletics family, who loved and respected Philip not only as a great player but more importantly as a friend and the epitome of an Auburn man. I came to know Philip well and I admired everything about who he was and the way he lived his life.
"He had a strong faith, a big heart and a burning desire to help others. Philip was a bright light this world desperately needed, and his death leaves a void that can’t possibly be filled. My prayers, my thoughts and my heart go out to his wonderful parents, Mike and Mary, their entire family and his many grieving friends."
His stock was never higher than after the 2010 season as he considered leaving early for the NFL draft. He stayed at Auburn, although a painful hip cut his senior season short, and he had surgery after six games.
The injury cost him a chance in the NFL draft, though Lutzenkirchen said he was happy he had returned for his season.
"I heard if I had come out last year, I would have been taken in the third or fourth round. But I've never regretted coming back to play my senior year and getting my degree," he said in 2013.
St. Louis general manager Les Sneed called Lutzenkirchen "a consummate pro."
"On behalf of the St. Louis Rams organization, we would like to send our condolences to his family. As an Auburn alum myself and with Coach Fisher’s ties to the university through his son Trent and daughter Tara, we join the Tigers in grieving this tragic loss."
Malzahn was Lutzenkirchen's offensive coordinator. Chizik was his head coach.
"He was compassionate, determined, honorable and full of love, integrity and respect," Chizik said. "In 27 years of coaching, I have come across what I would consider to be a few 'rare’'young men. Phillip was certainly one of those 'rare' ones. He truly lived his life for other people and always found time to give to others. His family values taught him to be a great friend and teammate of everyone he came in contact with. My deepest sympathy is extended to his parents Mike and Mary, his sisters, and all of his extended family. We should all begin by honoring his life because he lived a life worthy of that. In his 23 short years, he has certainly left an impactful legacy to everyone he touched. I will miss him deeply."
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Folllow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine