June 30, 2014
Philip Lutzenkirchen with the ball, but he was more than football
By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. -- Tommy Trott was the starting senior tight end and Philip Lutzenkirchen was the freshman with promise in 2009.
It didn't take long for Trott to realize the newcomer's infectious smile and football talent were something special.
"Somehow, he had a way of me looking up to him even though he was a freshman. He had a way of lighting up a room. He was a special person," Trott said.
Trott and college football had to deal with the fact that Lutzenkirchen, 23, died in a car accident over the weekend. The loss was felt at the top, from Gus Malzahn, Jay Jacobs and Gene Chizik; to the outpouring of sympathy from teammates, fans and rivals on the Internet.
A public memorial for Lutzenkirchen is Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET at Lassiter High School, where he played, in Marietta, Ga., at Frank Fillmann Stadium. Auburn announced it will hold a public memorial later. Those plans have not been finalized.
A public visitation and funeral Mass is Thursday at 10:30 a.m. at Transfiguration Catholic Church in Marietta. The funeral Mass is at 1 p.m.
"Philip meant to the world to so many people. He was awesome," Trott said. "I think it's more than football. He was genuinely kind. He cared about people, he could light up a room, people naturally gravitated to him. Everyone loved him."
Bart Eddins was also a teammate. Like Trott, he spent Sunday trying to understand.
"It really hasn't soaked in. It's still shocking. It's still confusing. It's still extremely sad," Eddins said.
Eddins said he isn't surprised fans remember Lutzenkirchen with so many kind words.
"That shows what kind of person that Phil was," Eddins said. "He was a special kid, and God makes only a few of those people. He's one of those people who could walk into a room with that smile of his or that voice and could change the atmosphere completely. He will be sorely missed.
"With that smile, you didn't have to know Phil at all. You'd talk to him and you'd think, 'That's the guy I wouldn't mind dating my sister or my daughter. He's a good guy.' I don't think you could find something bad to say about Philip. That speaks volumes of his family and how he was raised.
"He was one of those people who led by example."
Eddins watched Lutzenkirchen make one of the biggest plays in Auburn history, catching a fourth-quarter touchdown pass from Cam Newton that led a remarkable comeback that beat Alabama in Tuscaloosa. That helped Auburn to the 2010 national title, and it created the Lutzie, the little jig that Lutzenkirchen did after scoring.
The dance, naturally, led to some good-natured ribbing.
"The game ended early and we got back to Auburn and we were watching another game and they were showing highlights of our game," Eddins remembered. His friends turned to Lutzenkirchen.
"'What happened? Why did you do that dance?'" his teammates asked.
"'I don't know what happened. I blacked out and my feet just started moving,'" Eddins remembered Lutzenkirchen saying with a laugh.
"'You son of a gun, I'm sure you just realized you practically won the game for us,'" Eddins said.
"He always said," Trott remembered, "that he had way better dance moves than the Lutzie. He swore by it."
Thoughts of the touchdown brought a smile. But the reality of the weekend reminded Trott that Lutzenkirchen will be missed.
"It hurts," he said.
"When one person can make this kind of impact on people it's profound," Eddins said. "When you have people rolling Toomer's Corner to remember him, when you have the NFL Network and SportsCenter tweeting it out, when you have SportsCenter tweeting out stuff; when you have coaches, when you have old players remembering, it just goes back to just how a big impact he really had."
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine