ATHENS, Ga. — Auburn won't be alone this football season in commemorating former tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen, who died in late June.
Georgia fifth-year senior quarterback Hutson Mason was a teammate of Lutzenkirchen at Lassiter High School in Marietta, Ga. Mason showed up at Friday's media session wearing a No. 43 pin, signifying the jersey number Lutzenkirchen displayed for Auburn from 2009 to 2012.
The No. 43 was painted in the end zones on Auburn's practice fields as the Tigers began their preseason camp Friday.
"I'm trying to come up with something on the field as far as how I can honor him," Mason said. "It's not going to be anything that takes away from a team-oriented thing. I've talked about it with the equipment managers, and it may be something I wear on my hat when I'm standing on the sidelines."
Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said at Southeastern Conference media days that he and athletic director Jay Jacobs were discussing ways in which Lutzenkirchen could be recognized this season. Malzahn added that Lutzenkirchen was the first player he recruited for the Tigers after being named Gene Chizik's offensive coordinator following the 2008 season.
Lutzenkirchen is remembered most at Auburn for catching the winning touchdown in the 28-27 win at Alabama in 2010, which kept the Tigers on their journey to the national championship.
As a Lassiter senior in 2008, Lutzenkirchen caught 59 passes for 877 yards and seven touchdowns in 10 regular-season games. He had scholarship offers from the likes of Alabama, Florida and Florida State before signing with Auburn as Rivals.com's No. 3 tight end nationally.
Throwing to Lutzenkirchen that season was Mason, a then-junior who completed 292 of 420 passes for 3,705 yards with 28 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
Mason and Lutzenkirchen stayed in touch every month or so after venturing to their respective SEC locales, and their most recent exchange took place Friday, June 27. That conversation occurred roughly 30 hours before the 2006 Chevrolet Tahoe carrying Lutzenkirchen and three other passengers ran a stop sign and flipped several times outside LaGrange, Ga.
Lutzenkirchen was not wearing a seat belt during the early hours that Sunday, and he suffered a spinal fracture after being thrown from the vehicle.
"He really reached out to me that Friday, telling me he was rooting for me and asking how my summer was going," Mason said. "I told him that it was going good, and I can remember just the feeling of, 'Man, it was good to hear from him,' because I've always looked up to Philip. He was always that superstar.
"Then he sent me a text message saying, 'I'll be rooting for you. I know I'm an Auburn guy, but I know good things happen to guys who wait, and you've put in your time.' He said he would be praying for me."
Mason will continue wearing the No. 43 pin to media events in upcoming weeks, and he forever will remember his final words with Lutzenkirchen.
"Just looking back on that, every time I talk about it just gives me the chills," Mason said. "To have that last conversation was kind of like his goodbye. It also gives me a lot of peace knowing that he will be watching out over me."
Odds and ends
The Bulldogs held their second practice Saturday, working out for two hours. ... Junior John Theus said he has practiced equal time between right and left tackle. ... Georgia will hold its only Sunday practice of the preseason this afternoon.
Contact David Paschall at email@example.com or 423-757-6524.
David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...