It's been a year since we all awoke on a peaceful Sunday morning to the news that former Auburn tight-end Philip Lutzenkirchen was killed in a car wreck. I remember opening up Twitter and thinking at first that there must be some mistake or it must be some sick joke.
I was all of three days in to my time in charge of College and Magnolia. The thought that I would need to write a story about a beloved Auburn figure's death never really crossed my mind when I took over, but I definitely didn't think there would be the death of someone so recently on the team. The story I wrote that morning is still one of the hardest to write that I've done here (along with the Jakell Mitchell shooting).
There were many amazingly written stories that came out over the course of the days following Philip's death. Auburn associate professor of journalism John Carvalho wrote a wonderful piece about the Cruel End of Dreams. Our own Dr Z wrote about what he referred to as "Auburn's Every Man." Philip's roommate spoke of the man Philip was. Jeremy Henderson of The War Eagle Reader topped us all, as he usually does, with this well-written tribute.
Philip Lutzenkirchen was a joy to watch on the football field. The injury suffered during his senior season effectively ended his playing career, although he was signed by the St. Louis Rams. He was volunteering as a high school coach at the time of his death. His protege at the school he worked at, Jalen Harris, signed with Auburn in February.
Since his death, Philip's father Mike has been travelling all over the nation to speak with teams, groups, anyone who will have him about the night his son died. He formed the Lutzie 43 Foundation in memory of his son. His goal is to do everything possible to prevent anyone else from making the same mistakes his son made that night.
Many fans have pondered a form of official recognition from the football team for Lutzie. Some have suggested retiring his number, a move I am not in favor of. When you look at his numbers on the field, Lutzie's production, though filled with highlights, were not amazing for a tight-end in the grand scheme of things. They were very good (and one of the best) as a tight-end at Auburn, as commenter rahien.din pointed out below. His senior season was shortened by injury (and the Loeffler offense). Lutzie was a great person, and a great tight-end, but retiring numbers is something that should only be done for exception performance on the field, to me.
In my opinion, the best idea has been to make the #43 a special honor to go to a player who best represents an "Auburn Man." It could be a team-voted award for the person who best exemplifies what they believe an Auburn football player should be on and off the field. That player is allowed to wear the #43 for that football season. That seems the best way to honor a great young man and to cement a legacy of what an Auburn Man should be.
It seems hard to believe that it's already been a year.
"I know God's working so I smile." - Philip Lutzenkirchen