AUBURN, Ala. -- Philip Lutzenkirchen, a former Auburn tight end called by Gus Malzahn a "great young man who touched the lives of everyone he knew in a positive way," died in a car accident near LaGrange, Georgia early Sunday morning at the age of 23.
Lutzenkirchen caught more touchdown passes than any tight end in school history and was on the receiving end of the score that completed the Tigers' remarkable comeback win at Alabama in 2010.
Lutzenkirchen, 23, holds the school record for tight ends with 14 touchdown catches, and is second at that position with 59 catches and 628 receiving yards.
Lutzenkirchen will be remembered as one of the most popular players in recent Auburn history.
"On the field, Philip was a great player and competitor, but more importantly, he was a great teammate and friend off the field," Malzahn said. "My thoughts and prayers are with Philip’s parents, Mike and Mary, and all of his family and friends who are grieving his passing. This is a sad day for the entire Auburn family. I find peace knowing that even though Philip was taken from us too soon, that he lived his life to the fullest, leaving a lifetime of great memories for his family and friends to cherish forever."
Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs called Lutzenkirchen's death "a devastating tragedy for his family, the Auburn family and his countless friends. [Sunday] is also a profoundly sad day for the Auburn Athletics family, who loved and respected Philip not only as a great player but more importantly as a friend and the epitome of an Auburn man. I came to know Philip well and I admired everything about who he was and the way he lived his life.
"He had a strong faith, a big heart and a burning desire to help others. Philip was a bright light this world desperately needed, and his death leaves a void that can’t possibly be filled. My prayers, my thoughts and my heart go out to his wonderful parents, Mike and Mary, their entire family and his many grieving friends."
His stock was never higher than after the 2010 season as he considered leaving early for the NFL draft. He stayed at Auburn, although a painful hip cut his senior season short, and he had surgery after six games.
The injury cost him a chance in the NFL draft, though Lutzenkirchen said he was happy he had returned for his season.
"I heard if I had come out last year, I would have been taken in the third or fourth round," he said in 2013. "But I've never regretted coming back to play my senior year and getting my degree."