SYLACAUGA, Ala. (WIAT) – When Gus Malzahn first got to Auburn as the offensive coordinator before the 2009 season he was given the task to go to neighboring Georgia and recruit a tight end out of Lassiter High School. That player was Philip Lutzenkirchen. “It’s hard to pick just one,” Malzahn said when asked about his favorite memory of Lutzenkirchen. “[He was] a great football player but even better person.” The path to “Lutzie” was not easy. One of the nation’s most voracious recruiters, Alabama’s Nick Saban, wanted him to come to Tuscaloosa. “We tried to recruit him, I can tell you that,” said Saban. “We didn’t get far. He decided early on what he wanted to do.”
That was to be an Auburn Tiger. Lutzenkirchen would go on to catch fourteen touchdown passes in his four years on the plains. “Phillip had one of the star moments of his career at Auburn playing at Alabama,” his dad, Mike, reminisced. Lutzenkirchen caught a touchdown pass that helped Cam Newton and Auburn rally from a first half deficit to top the Tide en route to the school’s second national title.
Lutzenkirchen’s impact is now being felt off the field. On June 29, 2014 the former Auburn star was killed in car wreck in LaGrange, GA. Both Lutzenkirchen and the driver were drunk according to toxicology reports. “It’s emotional. You think you get this far past the journey and the journey doesn’t end,” said his father. “You try to be strong but certain things cause you to tear up. You hear guys talking about Phillip and I think it just speaks to who Phillip was.” In his late son’s honor, Mike and his family started the Lutzie 43 Foundation. According to the organization’s website, their goal is to, “…develop the character of young people and their influencers by focusing on leadership, charity, compassion, mentorship, hard work, honesty and faith through education and real world application.”
The family turned to the state where Philip made so many memories to help raise awareness and support for their foundation. The first annual Lutzie 43 Invitational was held Tuesday at Farmlinks Golf Club at Pursell Farms. Saban and Malzahn both participated to further the Lutzenkirchen family’s mission. “I’m honored to be a part of this in Phillip’s name,” said Malzahn. “It’s a great cause and I’m honored to be a part of it.” Saban, who met with the Lutzenkirchen’s when they dropped their daughter off at Alabama in August of 2014, didn’t hesitate to throw in his support. “One of the biggest things, if you have children, that you always worry about is judgment. How are those judgments going to impact [their] future? In his case it was catastrophic in terms of the impact,” said Saban. He added, “It’s not always what is the problem, but how do you respond to the problem; and I think this is the real positive here, that we’re taking a bad situation and make it a circumstance where other people can learn and grow.”
Mike Lutzenkirchen was extremely grateful for the show of support, saying, “Both of these guys [Saban and Malzahn] are here. They want to beat the tar out of each other in that Iron Bowl, there’s no doubt about it, but this is the game of life and I think they see what we’re trying to do.”
Click here for more information about the Lutzie 42 Foundation.