BY AARON BRENNER | firstname.lastname@example.org
AUBURN, Ala. – There are ‘combine guys’, who make scouts salivate over their staged strength and quickness; and then there are ‘tape guys’, who rely on their gameday triumphs.
That’s how Philip Lutzenkirchen sees it. Never the most impressive athletic specimen anyway, his ongoing recovery from hip surgery prevented him from becoming a talker at either the NFL Scouting Combine in late February or Auburn’s Pro Day Tuesday.
But that hardly dampened the longtime fan favorite’s spirits.
“I thought I competed well, caught all the balls, did everything I could,” Lutzenkirchen said. “I know I’m never going to be a blazer in the 40, running a 4.5 or anything. But I think game speed and film speed is a lot different than your 40 speed.”
Lutzenkirchen admitted he wishes he had his surgery “two to three weeks” before he did, in early November. It got to the point where former head coach Gene Chizik noticed the ineffectiveness and told ‘Lutz’ to shut it down for the year.
“It’s just the hand I was dealt,” Lutzenkirchen said. “I’ve always been told to just kind of roll with the punches, and this is where I’m at right now. I know teams have film on me and can see what I can do. So now it’s just a matter of me getting back to 100 percent healthy, and a waiting game until April.”
Interview ability and intangibles are also in Lutzenkirchen’s corner.
“I feel prepared,” he said. “Played in the best conference for four years, started for three, played a lot on the national championship team, so I have some good tape out there. I feel good about everything.”
Lutzenkirchen still has some scar tissue to break from the surgery, and knows he wasn’t 100 percent for his two on-field auditions. Knowing his draft stock, he politely laughed off a reporter’s suggestion of being selected in the first round.
“Never say never, but … as long as I get a chance,” Lutzenkirchen offered. “Even if I go undrafted, I know I have the skill set to make a roster in the NFL, and I bring a lot to the table for a team. Whether I get drafted early, middle, late or not at all, I think I’m going to be all right.”
One of Lutzenkirchen’s former teammates, tailback Onterio McCalebb, made himself a ‘combine guy’ with his blazing 40-yard-dash electronic time of 4.34 seconds. Some prospects who turn in solid combines decline to risk screwing it up at their school’s Pro Day, but McCalebb never relented in front of scouts visiting from 23 NFL teams.
“They asked me earlier what drills I’m going to do, and I told them I’m going to do everything,” McCalebb said. “This is going to be my last time at Auburn, showing these people what I can do out there on the field.”
He did just that; his unofficial Pro Day 40 was 4.29 seconds.
It’s not completely clear where McCalebb fits into an NFL roster. There’s no natural position for the 5-foot-10, 168-pounder, who said his ideal pro weight is 185.
He could find work as a third-down back, a kick returner, or maybe a punt returner, though he didn’t do that much in college. McCalebb even said he’s done some offseason training as a slot receiver, and conducted some backpedaling drills with the defensive backs Tuesday.
“As long as I get my foot in the door,” McCalebb said, “I’m going to work hard to stay on a team and do what I can do to help a team win.”
McCalebb’s buddy and fellow Pro Day participant, cornerback T’Sharvan Bell, gave McCalebb a piece of advice entering the combine.
“He told me there’s only two kind of guys that’s at the combine: one that’s going to make money, one that’s going to lose money,” McCalebb said. “That was my motto: go out there and try to do everything I can to be excellent in everything I do.”