— AUBURN, Ala. (AP) — Philip Lutzenkirchen faced the tough choice of shutting down his Auburn career or risking far bigger problems down the line.
The Tigers tight end chose to have season-ending hip surgery to repair a torn labrum and remove three bone spurs two weeks ago, ending a frustrating final year when he couldn't hold his blocks as long as he used to and felt slower in running routes.
Now, Lutzenkirchen is rehabilitating trying to get ready for the Senior Bowl in January if possible, or at least the NFL combine to get ready for the draft. He said doctors told him putting off surgery might have led to hip replacement before his 30th birthday.
This is an especially tough week for Lutzenkirchen, who was one of the Tigers' most popular players and accomplished tight ends.
The Marietta, Ga., native will have to watch from the sidelines when Auburn (2-7, 0-6 Southeastern Conference) tries to takes on No. 5 Georgia Saturday night.
"Those are my rivals, my buddies over there playing for Georgia and it's going to be tough being on the sidelines for that one," said Lutzenkirchen, who hadn't previously spoken to reporters since Auburn announced his season was over. " I'm just going to have to be as supportive as I can. I might still be the most fired up guy on that field even though I'll be on the sidelines. I'm just excited to root my guys on."
Auburn could certainly use Lutzenkirchen on the field. He remains second on the team with 15 catches for 139 yards despite missing the past three games. His 14 career touchdown catches is a school record for tight ends, and his game-winning touchdown catch against Alabama to keep the national title run going was one of the season's more memorable plays. It sparked an impromptu end zone dance later dubbed "The Lutzie" that's drawn more than 105,000 views on YouTube.