Hundreds honor Lutzkenkirchen at public memorial
MARIETTA, Ga. (AP) Several hundred mourners attended Philip Lutzenkirchen's public memorial service and candlelight vigil Wednesday night, nearly filling the bleachers on one side of his old high school stadium less than four days after the popular former Auburn player's death.
Tigers coach Gus Malzahn, athletic director Jay Jacobs and several dozen current and former Auburn players were on hand Wednesday night at Lassiter High School.
''He'll be remembered as one of the best players to ever put on an Auburn jersey. No doubt,'' said Malzahn, who flew home from vacation to attend the service.
The 23-year-old Lutzenkirchen, and driver Joseph Ian Davis, 22, died in a one-car crash early Sunday morning. Police suspect alcohol was involved and are awaiting the results of blood tests.
Lutzenkirchen was the first player Malzahn recruited when he arrived as Auburn's offensive coordinator after the 2008 season. The coach said Lutzenkirchen had a knack for making him smile.
''I'm a little stiff and he always had a joke to make me smile, especially in pressure situations,'' said Malzahn, choking up briefly. ''And I'm going to miss that.''
He said Lutzenkirchen ''probably had more friends than any other player I've coached.''
Many of those attending, which included several assistant coaches, wore Auburn's orange and blue as requested by the family.
''This is incredible. The Lassiter family and Auburn family, thank you very much,'' Lutzenkirchen's father, Mike, said. He wore an Auburn visor.
He said his son and ''best friend'' would have been embarrassed by the attention.
''There's a new tight end in heaven,'' Mike Lutzenkirchen said. ''He catches everything.''
Lutzenkirchen played for Auburn from 2009 to 2012 and set a school record for tight ends with 14 touchdown catches.
Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton posted a message on Instagram on Wednesday on the loss of ''my teammate, my friend, MY BROTHER.'' The two were key parts of Auburn's 2010 national championship season, connecting for the game-winning touchdown against Alabama.
Auburn is also planning to hold a public service for Lutzenkirchen.