Former Auburn tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen, one of the best players at his position in school history and a starter on the Tigers' championship-winning team in 2010, died early Sunday morning in a car accident, Auburn athletics department spokesman Kirk Sampson told USA TODAY Sports.
Lutzenkirchen was 23. A multiple-year starter at Auburn and All-Southeastern Conference selection, his career ended midway through the 2012 season as a result of a hip injury.
The one-vehicle accident occurred at roughly 3:05 a.m. outside of LaGrange, Ga., said Gordy Wright, the director of the Georgia State Patrol's Public Information Office.
The 2006 Chevrolet Tahoe containing Lutzenkirchen and three others ran a stop sign and careened out of control for roughly 450 feet before overturning several times, coming to a rest on its roof.
Lutzenkirchen and the driver, Joseph Ian Davis, were killed. Another two passengers were taken to West Georgia Medical Center in LaGrange.
In a statement, Wright said blood was drawn from the driver to determine if alcohol impairment was a contributing factor to the accident.
Lutzenkirchen ended his Auburn career as one of the most prolific tight ends in the program's history, ranking first for touchdown receptions by a tight end (14), second for total receptions (59) and third in receiving yards (628).
While his best season came in 2011, when the then-junior earned second-team All-SEC honors, perhaps Lutzenkirchen's most memorable stretch came during the final weeks of 2010, when he helped lead the Tigers past Alabama – making the game-winning touchdown grab in a 28-27 win – and Oregon to claim an undefeated national championship.
The hip injury essentially prevented Lutzenkirchen from a career in the NFL; he signed a free-agent contract with the St. Louis Rams in 2013 but lasted just four months with the franchise before being released.
Since leaving Auburn, Lutzenkirchen worked at a wealth-management company and volunteered as an assistant coach at Saint James School in Montgomery, Ala.