There was a hole in Mike Lutzenkirchen’s family as he took the stage in the Auburn Arena on Wednesday night for his “Lessons from Lutz” event.
With his wife and three daughters in attendance, Lutzenkirchen shared stories and lessons from his son Philip, a popular former Auburn football player who passed away in 2014 after a drunk driving accident.
“God created a hole for my family,” Lutzenkirchen said. “Everyone is in that hole except Philip. We’re not a family that is used to being in a hole, so the other option is to get out of the hole, and I know that’s what Philip would want.”
Lutzenkirchen said the fact that the event took place on his 52nd birthday only added emotion. That showed as he teared up multiple times in the event.
“Philip had phenomenal character, unbelievable faith and an uncanny ability to give his time to others,” Lutzenkirchen said. “That willingness to pay it forward and it’s a challenge I’m going to give to the kids today.”
His son was one of the more popular football players in recent history for Auburn, but Lutzenkirchen refused to make excuses for him.
“My son was a 23-year old man and was mature beyond his age because of Auburn University,” Lutzenkirchen said. “Philip made the choice to do what he did and he made the choice to get in that vehicle. I just don’t want to see other kids make it. That gives me strength to have a conversation about those details.”
Introduced by team chaplain Chette Williams, Auburn football coach Gus Malzahn led Lutzenkirchen onto the stage,
His focus during the event was on decision-making, and Lutzenkirchen harkened back to the Auburn Creed for inspiration.
“There’s an Auburn Creed,” Lutzenkirchen said. “I don’t think a lot of kids are living to that Auburn Creed to the degree they could.”
Lutzenkirchen has given speeches around the country regarding drunk driving, but he tailored his speech for his first college crowd.
Referencing a “bar culture” that exists in Auburn, Lutzenkirchen hoped to send the message that people are responsible for their decisions, regardless of the quality of their character.
“A combination of poor decision added together, and no matter how well he lived his life, it ended his life,” Lutzenkirchen said. “There will be a lot of strong messages about making the right choices.”
The night ended with the crowd gathering in arms and a collective rendition of “Lean On Me.” In what was likely the most emotional birthday of his life, Lutzenkirchen said he hoped he could make a difference for everyone in attendance.