Our Brian Penter Remembers Philip Lutzenkirchen
Alabama News Network's Brian Penter didn't just cover former Auburn football star Philip Lutzenkirchen as part of his job covering sports, they were best friends.
Lutzenkirchen was killed in a wreck early Sunday morning in Georgia. He played on Auburn's 2010 national championship team and scored 14 touchdowns in his college career, the most of any tight end in Auburn history.
Brian wanted to share this blog post he wrote as a tribute to the man he'd known nearly all his life:
“A life is not important, except for the impact it has on others.”
That quote is attributed to Jackie Robinson. It is also the latest Twitter bio for Philip Lutzenkirchen.
No one I knew impacted more lives than Philip.
Today I lost my brother, my best friend, my roommate, and so much more. Just take a glance at Facebook or Twitter and it will be easy to see the vast impact Philip had on others. He made a bigger impact in 23 years than the average American does in the 70-80 they may get.
I first met Philip when his family moved to our neighborhood when I was in second grade, he was in first. My brothers and I heard a new kid our age had moved in, and we were anxious at the potential of a new friend. We went down to introduce ourselves and within fifteen minutes we were playing tackle football with Philip.
Philip and I grew very close and spent our childhoods together playing on different teams together (I’ll never forget our dads telling us to sandbag try-outs so our team could get better draft picks. We played to win), annoying lifeguards during the summer, playing video games, trying to figure out girls (still hasn’t happened), and everything else best friends do.
By high school, it became clear that Philip was not just a good athlete, but a great one.
His catch and throwback, in my mind, will never be topped when it comes to a play made on the football field.
Philip quickly became one of the most sought-after tight end prospects in the country. My freshman year at Florida, Philip came down for a visit and I got to accompany him and meet Coach Urban Meyer (VERY serious guy. He told Philip, “You’ve got a nice frame. I think we could use you.”) We enjoyed the game, but I knew Philip loved Auburn, and that despite the turmoil the program was going through after firing Tommy Tuberville, that that’s where he’d end up.
I don’t need to talk about Philip’s college career. The highlight reel plays and accomplishments speak for themselves.
Unfortunately, Philip’s college career was cut short by a hip injury, an injury that he would never recover from. He went undrafted in the NFL Draft for that reason, but was still given a chance with the St. Louis Rams. Having your best friend sign an NFL contract was so cool. Philip was excited at the prospect of playing at the next level.
Once again, the injury bug bit Philip, as he broke his ankle in training camp. That, combined with never truly having his hip heal, meant his dreams of an NFL career had come to an end.
As Philip came to a crossroads in his life, an opportunity presented itself for him to come work in Montgomery, thanks to his relationship with San Francisco Giants (and former long-time Brave) pitcher Tim Hudson. That’s the kind of life Philip had- he could just call up an all-time great pitcher when he needed some help. So, Tim hooked Philip up with his financial company, where Philip began his transition to a career in business.
I had been working in Montgomery, covering sports for the CBS affiliate there. I didn’t possess Philip’s size and athleticism, and if I couldn’t be a pro, I wanted the next best thing- to cover them as a sports broadcaster. I’ve had some fun opportunities with my career, but hands-down, nothing topped when I taped an interview with Philip for our Iron Bowl special last year.
So, as fate had it, Philip came to Montgomery and we became roommates. It was awesome. It’s just like we wound the clocks back 12 years and were back to hanging out every day, joking around, watching and playing sports (I beat him at golf, he destroyed me at apartment basketball), reminiscing, and still, trying to figure out girls (I can’t believe Philip left this problem for me to solve on my own).
The last seven months together were memories I’ll treasure forever. When he left our apartment Thursday morning, I had no idea it would be the last time I would see him.
What do I do now? Where do I go from here? I’m not really sure the answer to those questions. Philip would probably tell me in his Alfred from Batman voice, “Endure.” Right now, my brain still hasn’t really fully processed it. It is such an odd feeling for someone to just be a huge part of your life, then the next day, they’re gone.
What made Philip special and why there’s been such an outpouring of love and support from friends, acquaintances, and virtually anyone he ever met has nothing to do with what he did on the football field. Football was an avenue for Philip, but it wasn’t who he was and why he touched so many lives.
It is sad knowing he’s gone and that I’ll never be able to share another meal or round of golf with him. But I can take solace in knowing that he was a man of great faith, and I know Jesus’ team just got one heck of a tight end- one with a fully-functioning hip. If he can do this on Earth, I can’t imagine what he’s capable of in heaven.
I’ll miss you Philip. I love you. See you soon.
“So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body, we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.”
2 Corinthians 5: 6-8