We lost a member of the family early Sunday morning.
Any Auburn fan that ever was fortunate enough to cross paths with Philip Lutzenkirchen made a friend. I only had the pleasure once at the 2013 Iron Bowl, of all places, in line for the men's room at halftime. He had no idea who I was, but he was gracious and even chatty. We talked for a second about the first half, then someone else got his attention, and he was off to make a new friend.
The best way to describe Philip is that he made you feel like his equal. He loved Auburn. You love Auburn. That was enough for him to consider you his friend. He had that knack of making friends with anyone. You couldn't help but like the guy.
Aside from all that he was a damn good football player. Maybe the best tight end in Auburn history.
We will remember the spectacular one-handed catches, the laser he caught from Cam in the 2010 Georgia game, and of course the catch in the Iron Bowl to segment the most epic comeback in the history of the storied rivalry.
What I will remember most most is Philip's willingness to always stop and chat, to take a quick photo with a loving fan, to represent everything that Auburn stands for...and that is that family trumps all else.
When I heard of Phillip's passing, my thoughts turned to Philip's immediate family. No one should ever have to bury a son. I have two children, and the thought of losing one of them is indescribable. My four year old son has night terrors every once in a while. One of those times was last night.
As I comforted my little boy, I thought of Philip's parents. I don't know them, yet my heart aches for them. We are so fortunate that they did such a wonderful job of raising a young man like Philip. We should all thank them for allowing us to share in his wonderful life, even for a small moment. I hope I can be as good as they have been in raising their children.
I also hope my son grows up to be just like number 43.
And I don't even care if my son plays football.
Indeed, we lost a member of our family. And it is going to hurt for some time. But we should take heart in knowing that Philip is up there, eagerly awaiting August 30th. And heaven is an even brighter place today.