“It Was the Best Decision of My Life To Be a Tiger.”
“He made one of the biggest plays in Alabama history. I’m talking about Alabama and Auburn history. Actually it is Alabama history, too. When he caught that touchdown pass against Alabama and did that little touchdown dance, ‘the Lutzie’ as they called it. I think that pretty much won him over with the fans.”
That’s the way that Auburn assistant coach Jay Boulware described the historic catch of a Cam Newton pass by Tight End Phillip Lutzenkirchen; a pass that sealed Auburn’s epic 4th quarter come from behind Iron Bowl victory over Alabama in 2010.
Lutzenkirchen, already a fan favorite went into legendary status with that dramatic catch. But in reality it was just one of dozens of his important acrobatic catches rarely seen from tight ends.
Its for certain that “The Catch” will forever be enshrined in Auburn Football and Iron Bowl lore. However, the one that will always stand out in my memory happened right in front of me as I sat on row 22 of section 15 in Jordan -Hare Stadium.
In 2011, with just under 5 minutes left in the fourth quarter against Ole Miss, Auburn faced a 3rd and goal from the Rebels’ 5 yard line. Clint Moseley threw a short pass to Lutzenkirchen, who had to twist around to his right to catch the ball with one hand, then dive for the goal line to avoid a defender, while at the same time switching the ball to his left hand and stretching it out just inches inside the pylon for a touchdown. It was another unbelievable spectacular catch from the master tight end.
But in 2012 Phillip Lutzenkirchen has not had a stellar year. As the quarterbacks have struggled so have …
the opportunities for the receivers. Yet he has been more than a great receiver. Since coming to Auburn he has developed into a great blocker. In fact the last couple of years he has been used as a hybrid-type tight end, with a primary role to create holes for the running game.
After 44 starts as an Auburn Tiger, Phillip ended his career before the Vandy game. It turns out that he had been playing all year with a very painful hip injury. The pain became almost unbearable and he finally had to submit to surgery.
It was a big loss for a young team that sorely needs his senior leadership. Anyone who has ever seen Phillip play can attest not only to his natural ability but to his enthusiasm, his energy, and the inspiration he brings to the game.
Now the Tigers will have to finish the year without their leader. There are a lot of intangibles to success in the game of football including talent, coaching, scheduling, and of course luck. But the most important ingredient may be having good leaders on the field. Players that inspire and influence the team to pull it off when times are tough.
The truth is that every year there are a vast number of athletes that possess tremendous athletic ability but are lacking in the area of leadership. Phillip Lutzenkirchen is a leader – on and off the field – especially with his work with children and cancer patients.
There have been injuries on top of injuries this season. But none as devastating to the team as the one that knocked No. 43 out of the line up.
When he made the decision to have surgery he tweeted his more than 30,000 followers, “Hips been bothering me since fall camp and its to the point where I was hurting the team for me to not play at 100%. Gave it all I had. Sorry.”
He added, “Sad to say it is over at Auburn. Thanks for the opportunity to play in O&B on Saturdays. It was the best decision of my life…
To be a Tiger.”