BY AARON BRENNER | email@example.com
AUBURN, Ala. – His grind isn’t over, but Philip Lutzenkirchen feels he’s already passed the hardest part.
The former Auburn tight end had hip surgery last fall, ending his illustrious collegiate career and casting doubt on his professional aspirations.
After copious rehab and a few bitterly polite declines to postseason all-star events, Lutzenkirchen was out there Saturday with many of the nation’s top tight end prospects at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.
Some of Lutzenkirchen’s recorded times and distances weren’t ideal, but he’ll have March 5 – Auburn’s Pro Day – to enhance those marks and prove his body is capable of playing in the NFL.
“Combine over. Proud of what I was able to accomplish 13 weeks post surgery. God is good,” Lutzenkirchen tweeted Saturday.
Lutzenkirchen was proud of how his agility responded, clocking 4.35 seconds in the 20-yard shuttle – tied for fourth among 13 tight ends. On Friday, his 21 bench presses of a 225-pound bar was good for sixth at the position.
His 40-yard-dash and broad jump tallies were near the back of the group, but those are things he can clean up a week from Tuesday. Besides, while only some of the tight ends’ football action was televised by NFL Network, Lutzenkirchen pointed out another important trait to his followers.
“The goal was to show I’m healthy in the drills, and I was the only TE not to drop a pass,” Lutzenkirchen tweeted.
Auburn’s all-time touchdown reception leader among tight ends is projected to be drafted in the middle or late rounds in April.
Sunday’s action introduces quarterbacks, wide receivers and running backs, including Auburn tailback Onterio McCalebb.
O’Neal stays hot
Ryan Tella hit Auburn’s first inside-the-park home run in four years, and Pacelli and Chattahoochee Valley CC product Michael O’Neal continued a great start to his Tigers career in Auburn’s 5-1 victory over College of Charleston Saturday afternoon in the Auburn Baseball Tournament at Plainsman Park.
O’Neal fired six innings of four-hit shutout ball, walking one and striking out five. He’s now 2-0 with a 1.54 ERA and an 8-1 K-BB ratio.
The shutout bid was snuffed by an unearned run off Trey Cochran-Gill in the eighth.
With two out and one on in the third, Tella stroked a line drive down the left-field line. When Charleston left fielder Brandon Murray didn’t corral or deliver the baseball quickly, Tella went the distance for all the offense Auburn would need.
“The one thing that really sparked us in that game was Ryan Tella’s hustle. That turned the game around quickly,” Auburn head coach John Pawlowski said. “This was the first crossroads that we faced on the young season.”
Earlier Saturday in a rescheduled makeup from Friday’s rainout, Auburn dropped its first decision of the year, 2-1 to Middle Tennessee State.
Auburn (5-1) closes out its home tournament Sunday at 3 p.m. ET against Indiana State, the reigning Missouri Valley Conference regular season champion.