Until this past weekend, he was No. 43, the popular player whose name had to be squeezed on to the back of his Auburn jersey. But when horrible police reports began to trickle out of Troup County Sunday morning, Philip Lutzenkirchen became more than a football hero.
The former tight end and one of his friends were killed Sunday in a one-car wreck in the morning darkness. Two others survived. We soon learned that Lutzenkirchen wasn't wearing a seat belt and that he was thrown from the car, which spiraled 42 feet in the air.
Video evidence of the historic catches he made during Auburn's march to the national championship in 2010 was posted and so were his impressive statistics. Then came details of the accident. We learned that Ian Davis, the driver, was buckled up, attended the University of Georgia and had tried out for the Bulldog baseball team.
Since then articles about the accident have mostly talked about Lutzenkirchen's football career and how sad it was for two men so young to be killed.
I never met him, but I enjoyed watching him, particularly plays where he extended a big mitt into the air and brought down passes with one hand. I join people who offer prayers and condolences to his family in Marietta, Ga.
As information was posted online, comment boards began to fill with inappropriate observations that bother me. A promising 23-year-old was dead. He was a football player. Another family was grieving, but we had never heard of that other young man.
But almost immediately, people started using those outlets as a bully pulpit to preach about him not wearing his seat belt. His family and his friends knew that already. They didn't need outsiders harping on that. Let the people that eulogize him deliver that message.
People from other college camps said nice things about him, how they respected his strong personality and the way he performed at crucial moments of a football game -- even against their favorite team.
I applaud those fans, but I got angry when I read comments that applied Saturday rivalries to a tragedy that went far beyond a football game. There's a time to bicker, but there also is a time to come together.
From the beginning, hints were offered that alcohol might have been involved. That's the job of the Georgia State Patrol, not people who know nothing more than what they've read or heard. If drinking was involved, the process will run its course.
Let the families of Philip Lutzenkirchen and Ian Davis bury their sons. Let them mourn in their own way. Until these things are done, don't make them read your drivel.
-- Richard Hyatt is an independent correspondent. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org