Alabama coach Nick Saban, Auburn coach Gus Malzahn and others were on hand Tuesday to participate in the inaugural Lutzie 43 Invitational golf tournament in Sylacauga, Ala. The tournament was put on by the Lutzie 43 Foundation, which was named in honor of former Auburn tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen.
“This is a great cause. We’re so glad to actually be here and help the Lutzie Foundation ,” Saban told reporters, via al.com. “This is really something special and sends a great message to a lot of people. I think Mike (Lutzenkirchen) has done a great job of trying to promote this and send a positive message to a lot of young people and some things that maybe they can focus on that will have a positive impact on their life.
“Not a lot different than what we try to do with Nick’s Kids or even what we try to do with our players in terms of helping them make the kind of choices and decisions that will be beneficial to them being more successful in life. This kind of goes hand-in-hand with what we all try to do.”
Lutzenkirchen died in a single vehicle accident in 2014 at the age of 23. Speaking to reporters prior to teeing off on Tuesday, Saban remembered Lutzenkirchen as a player. Saban recalls recruiting Lutzenkirchen out of high school, but “didn’t get far” as the tight end “decided early on what he wanted to do.”
“He was a mismatch player. He was a very difficult player to defend,” Saban said. “I certainly remember him catching the touchdown pass that beat us when Cam Newton was playing and they came back and won that game in 2010, which was a great football game. I just thought he was always an outstanding player. Certainly represented his university in a first class way, and set a good example for young people in a lot of ways.”
Saban, a father of two, deals with his own children and hundreds of other 18 to 22-year-old players as a coach. Saban said one of the things he always thinks about is judgment when the young people he is around are making decisions.
“What kind of judgment are we gonna use here in terms of the decisions that we make and how are those judgments gonna impact our future? And in this case, it was catastrophic in terms of the impact,” Saban said in reference to how Lutzenkirchen died. “It’s not always what is the problem, but how do you respond to the problem, and I think this is the real positive here is that we’re taking a bad situation and trying to make it a circumstance where other people can learn, grow and maybe not have to go through the same kind of negative circumstance in their future because of these lessons. I think the Lutzenkirchen family needs to really be commended on what they’re trying to accomplish here.”
Asked if he feels stories like Lutzenkirchen’s stick with players more because of how young he was and similar in age, Saban agreed and shared a story of one of the guest speakers he’s brought to Alabama.
“I think the story is always best told by people who have similar experiences with the guys that they can relate to,” Saban said. “I know we have Chris Herren come in all the time who was the NBA basketball player whose lifetime dream was to be the starting point guard for the (Boston) Celtics, and when he is the starting point guard for the Celtics, he gets banned from the league for drug abuse. I think when those kinds of people speak, young people listen because they share the same kind of experiences as they do and they can sort of relate to the circumstance that they were in. So I think it always is more impactful.”