Thank you to Nosa Eguae, Lutzie 43 Board Member, a friend of Philip, and a former Auburn football player for authoring this blog post.
The last time I saw Philip Lutzenkirchen was June 25, 2014, I’m writing this blog post six years to the date. As I reflect on one of the biggest influences in my life; certain words and memories come to mind.
Phil was service personified, and it wasn’t what he did, it was who he was.
Few know, but Philip was not initially number 43. When we came on campus in the summer of 2009, that number was given to Emory Blake. Phil who showed up on campus early was given number 80. Emory never voiced his displeasure with 43, I think Phil being Phil; just sensed it. As we walked to class on our second day on campus, Phil in his nonchalant manner walked up to Emory, and with his seriocomic baritone voice said “I’ll take 43”, and on that faithful day in June of 2009 the legend of 43; out of an act of kindness in true Philip fashion was born.
I’ve seen Phil walk into many rooms; never did I see that room not be better when he left it.
For two years, Phil and I spent a lot of time together. At 6’3″ 255lbs we stood the same height and weight; let him tell it, and he would always make sure that you knew; that we are no way the same height, and that he is at least an inch taller than me. As the starting tight end, and starting strong-side defensive end we competed every day against each other in practice, when I would drop back and have the responsibility of taking Y(tight-end) up the seam I couldn’t guard him, and when he would have to stay in on a play-action and pass protect he couldn’t block me. We had surgery on the same day, on the same shoulder, by the same surgeon, and recovered to full strength at the same time. As communication majors, we shared all the same classes, and always figured out a way to divide and conquer the homework. During the summer, we worked out in the same workout group, oftentimes together as captains. Where I would out lift him in the weight room, and he would outrun me in the conditioning. We even had the same summertime internship at a local nonprofit in East Alabama called Youth For Christ; where I witnessed his fame in 2011 and 2012 reach boy band status. As he would melt the hearts of the little girls that came to our community outreach events, and have the guys walking on eggshells as they tried their best to emulate the cool presence of the one only Philip Lutzenkirchen (better known to the kids as Lutzie).
In retrospect, I thank God for those two years. It was a masterclass on impact, consistency, how to light up a room simply by your presence and intentionality, work ethic, stewardship, service, grit, and above all else bold humility.
Phil wasn’t my best friend he was my brother.
I’m sure this won’t catch you by surprise, but on June 29, 2014, we were once again doing the same thing. This time 743 miles apart. I was in Dallas, TX at a bar with my family and friends celebrating my first night out in my hometown as an Atlanta Falcon football player. Phil was in Lagrange, GA with friends at a farmhouse. Just before 3:00 a.m. EST Phil made a decision to get in the backseat of an SUV without a seatbelt. Just before 2:00 a.m. CST; I too made the decision to get in the backseat of an SUV without a seatbelt. The SUV that Philip was in was being driven by an impaired driver under the influence of alcohol. The SUV that I was in was being driven by an impaired driver under the influence of alcohol.
At 3:06 a.m. EST I lost my brother in a single-car accident in Lagrange, GA.
Just after 3:00 a.m. CST I made it back home.
At 8:00 a.m., I received a call from our teammate, Kodi Burns, notifying me of the news.
It took months for me to piece together the eerie similarities of the fateful morning of June 29th. It’s taken me six years to the date of the last time I saw my brother to tell the story.
As we celebrate the life of Philip Lutzenkirchen, may we never forget the mistake we both made on June 29, 2014. It’s a mistake that is made far too often in the world today.
So I challenge you to do what I have done in the six years since Philip passed away.
1. Live like him: I wouldn’t be the man I am today if it wasn’t for the influence of Philip Lutzenkirchen on my life. The masterclass is still in session, and there isn’t a day that I don’t see a 43; a God wink that reminds to make every single room that I walk in better.
2. Love like him. Philip’s love will reverberate in this world for a lifetime. He lived life with purpose, on purpose, with that purpose simply being to love people. If we all loved like Lutz this world will be a better place.
3. Learn from US. Bad decisions were made that night; one of the most incredible men that I’ve ever met, lost his life due to that mistake, and in the wake of his death Philip Lutzenkirchen left a legacy. A legacy that is bringing an end to distracted and impaired driving. As a board member of the foundation that honors Philip. I urge you to take heed from our mistake; there is never a good time for distracted and impaired driving. Today alone, 11 people will be killed in a distracted driving accident. More than 1,000 will be injured. But you can help us ensure that those unsettling statistics go down; Visit the Lutzie 43 foundation website and find out how you can help us bring an end to distracted and impaired driving.