Auburn TE Philip Lutzenkirchen catches on

Philip Lutzenkirchen has claimed his spot as one of Auburn’s fan


He has 27,000-plus Twitter followers and, now that quarterback

Cam Newton has moved on to the NFL, the tight end draws the biggest

cheers whenever the Tigers’ starting lineup is announced at

Jordan-Hare Stadium.

It’s an unusual role for a player who until this year hasn’t

been in an offense that featured his position.

”I’ve never heard a tight end get the biggest cheer in the

stadium until last year,” said Jay Boulware, Auburn’s tight ends

and special teams coach. ”It was Lutz, every time. I was teasing

him in the meeting about that (Friday). I said, `You guys should

hear when they announce the starting lineup and they say Lutz’s

name. It is the biggest cheer on our football team, by far.’

”It used to be the quarterback. When Cam was here, obviously it

was Cam. It just struck me as odd one day when all of a sudden it

became Lutz. He’s pretty popular.”

Like many things in this state, you can trace that popularity at

least partly to the Iron Bowl.

Lutzenkirchen’s 7-yard touchdown catch early in the

fourth-quarter completed the scoring in a 28-27 victory over

Alabama two years ago and kept the Tigers on track for the national

title. It might have been overshadowed by the Newton-led comeback

at the time, but Auburn fans didn’t forget.

His awkward but enthusiastic celebratory dance was fairly

memorable, too.

”He made one of the biggest plays in Alabama history. I’m

talking about Alabama and Auburn history. Actually it is Alabama

history, too,” Boulware said. ”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


His popularity also might stem from Lutzenkirchen being

personable and articulate. He has interned the past two summers

with a group called Youth for Christ. He visited with high school

kids around the area, along with defensive end Nosa Eguae this

summer and quarterback Barrett Trotter last year.

”There’s not many tight ends on the same platform that I

have,” he said. ”That goes back to catching touchdowns and just

the way I was raised, being well-spoken and trying to do the right

thing all the time. I think people appreciate that, especially when

you hear about all these college athletes getting in trouble all

the time and not doing the right thing. It definitely goes back to

how I was raised and my family. I think it’s refreshing for people

to see athletes have success, but at the same time represent

themselves and their university in the right way.”

Fullback/tight end Blake Burgess sums up his teammate’s

popularity on two fronts.

”He is Mr. Touchdown,” Burgess said. ”He’s a great person all

around. He’s one of the nicest guys I’ve ever been around. If

anybody should have 27,000 Twitter followers, it should be


Lutzenkirchen also scored the game-winning touchdown against

South Carolina last season and the go-ahead fourth-quarter score to

help beat the Gamecocks two years ago.

He led the Tigers with seven touchdown catches last season – on

24 receptions – and already owns the school’s career mark for a

tight end with 14. Then he was a favored red zone target for

offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn, sneaking out of the backfield

after a day of mostly blocking.

Now, Malzahn’s successor, Scot Loeffler, has brought a pro-style

passing game after tight end Evan Rodriguez was his leading

receiver at Temple last season.

”He can be a wideout, he can be a tight end, he can come out of

the backfield,” Auburn coach Gene Chizik said. ”You can move him

around in multiple ways. He’s the same old Philip. He’s just an

incredibly gifted pass receiver in open space. He knows that our

No. 1 challenge with him right now is to make sure he can be a

physical perimeter blocker meaning in a three-point stance from the

tight end position, and that’s going to be required.

”He’s done it some in the past, but more of that’s being

required now. We know he can catch the ball. He’s got to continue

to improve in all phases, but he’s certainly a key guy in our


Follow John Zenor on Twitter: (at)jzenor