October 26, 2012

Lutzenkirchen's leadership not fading

AUBURN - The Tigers' most popular player has played his final college snap.

Tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen, who has more than 30,000 Twitter followers and perhaps 10 times that many fans, underwent season-ending surgery Wednesday for a nagging hip injury. The news was a shock to players and fans alike, who had grown fond of the jokester-turned-leader.

Still, Lutzenkirchen's apprentices insist his influence will remain long after he's gone.

"He's an unbelievable person; an unbelievable football player on and off the field. A great guy," sophomore tight end C.J. Uzomah said. " Off the field, you won't catch him not smiling or not taking the time. If somebody asks him for a picture, he'll never shrug them off. He always goes up to them and is polite. He's an all-around great guy."

Coach Gene Chizik said Lutzenkirchen suffered the initial injury during fall camp, but successfully played through the pain for six weeks. After the loss at Ole Miss on Oct. 13, Lutzenkirchen knew that the pain in his hip had become an overwhelming burden.

"He was pushing through, and he was pushing through and he was pushing through," Chizik said. "He just couldn't do it anymore."

Lutzenkirchen, some will argue, became the face of the program during the past four seasons. He committed to coach Tommy Tuberville's staff in May 2008 and was outspoken about his allegiance to the program after Tuberville's dismissal after the 2008 season.

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