By Sarrah Peters
On Wednesday, September 11, Mike Lutzenkirchen of the Lutzie 43 Foundation spoke to the students of Gadsden City High School.
Mike is the father of Philip Lutzenkirchen, an Auburn football player that was part of the 2010 National Championship winning season. Philip had a brief stint in the NFL with the St. Louis Rams.
Although proud of his son’s football career, Lutzenkirchen focused most of the talk on what his son did for others.
Lutzenkirchen told several stories about Philip making himself available to people, even strangers. He traveled home to Georgia from Auburn, postponing a spring break trip to meet with a girl with cancer who was facing the loss of her leg.
Lutzenkirchen encouraged the students to put their time, talent and tenderness towards helping others.
Philip’s NFL career ended early because of an injury. He was offered a job in Montgomery. In June 2014, Philip went to visit friends in Georgia.
After a night of drinking, Philip and three friends piled into a Chevy Tahoe to get some dip from a convenience store. Although they arrived at the convenience store, the group didn’t make it back. The Tahoe did not stop at a intersection, and the vehicle, traveling at about 77 miles per hour, flipped seven times and traveled 450 feet. Philip wasn’t wearing a seatbelt and ended up 15 feet away from the vehicle. Lutzenkirchen was pronounced as dead on arrival. The driver was also dead. The other two passengers survived.
The driver’s blood alcohol content was twice the legal limit. Philip’s blood alcohol content was even higher at 0.377. At an alcohol level this high, individuals have little understanding of surroundings and often lapse in and out of consciousness.
Philip’s father told the students that he thought that Philip was really good friends with the people present. He then told the students that the difference between good friends and great friends is that great friends stop someone from drinking too much and tell friends to wear a seatbelt.
However, Lutzenkirchen did not blame others for his son’s decisions, saying that his son had the responsibility to make his own good choices. He challenged the students to make good decisions in their lives and challenged them not to vape, especially with the recent teen deaths from vaping. He challenged students to avoid drinking and drugs. He also challenged them to wear seatbelts and avoid distracted driving, including texting, applying make-up, eating or any other activity. He told them to talk to their parents if their parents are driving distracted.
“I’m here today because I don’t ever ever want your dads to be in my shoes,” said Mike.