MARIETTA, Ga. - A 22-year-old, who grew up in East Cobb, has a powerful message for people after her brother was killed in a tragic car accident in 2014.
If you're from Georgia or you're a fan of college football, then there's a good chance you know the name Philip Lutzenkirchen. Many people spent their Friday nights in Marietta cheering for Philip as he dominated on the gridiron for Lassiter High School. He was a standout athlete and went on to be a fan-favorite for Auburn University, playing on the 2010 winning national champion team.
He died in a one-car crash near LaGrange, Georgia, which also took the life of the driver, Ian Davis. Both of them had been drinking.
Philip was just 23-years-old. However, his legacy will live on forever. Since his passing, several things have been very apparent: Philip, also known to family, friends and fans as "Lutzie," was very well-liked. Even if you weren't friends with him, you felt like you knew him and the news of his death was devastating for not only the metro Atlanta community, but for fans and strangers across the country. In the short amount of time that he has been gone, hundreds of dollars have been raised in his name through the Lutzie 43 Foundation. In August, FOX 5 News was there as Lassiter honored him by naming the school's new football field "Lutzie 43 Field."
The impact he had on people is very clear. It's also clear he came from a loving, tight-knit family. His mother, father and three sisters constantly find ways to honor him. Whether it's through fundraisers, public speaking events, posting pictures on social media, wearing Auburn colors or sporting his number "43," they make sure his presence is never forgotten.
Abby Lutzenkirchen, his youngest sister, recently wrote an article for The Players Tribune. Whether you knew Philip or not, her words are moving: "It's important to learn from how Philip died. But it's equally important to learn from how he lived." In "The Big Kid," Abby starts off my recalling fond memories of her loving and hilarious older brother.
"On Halloween night his junior year at Auburn, I got a text message from him," Abby said. "It was a selfie of him smiling proudly, dressed head-to-toe as Woody from Toy Story."
Abby goes on to say her brother was the best kind of human being who never lost the spirit of a little kid. She said he wasn't just the guy you bring home to mom, but the one you bring home to your grandmother.
Abby, who plays soccer for Auburn's biggest rival the University of Alabama and now wears her brothers famous number 43, said that unfortunately being a great guy didn't stop her brother from making a decision that would end his life. She goes into detail about the feelings that most families have when they deal with tragedy.
"Guys like Phil don't mess up. And when they do, it's funny. It's endearing. They're sorry about it," Abby said. "Guys like Philip don't die."
Abby's words are heartbreaking, but extremely powerful. She stresses the importance of preventing what happened to her family and offers great advice to other athletes possibly feeling the peer pressure of letting loose after a tough week of practice. She finishes up the article by sharing a touching story of brotherly love and a fond memory she will always cherish about a weekend spent with Philip in Tuscaloosa, which is a city she never thought he would step foot in.
"My brother. What a goofball."
Abby's article was published on Tuesday and is quickly making the rounds on Facebook.
"Very proud of Abby for her honesty and sharing her story," Abby's sister Ann said on Facebook. Close family friends have responded as well. Kevin Carroll, who was Philip's best friend, said it was perfectly written and he couldn't have said it better himself.