BY AARON BRENNER | firstname.lastname@example.org
BIRMINGHAM – Depending on who makes 53-man rosters, Sept. 26 and Dec. 1 will be two dates for Auburn fans to watch in the 2013 NFL season.
St. Louis, which hosts its NFC West rival on the former date, signed tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen, linebacker Daren Bates and wide receiver Emory Blake as unrestricted free agents within 48 hours of the conclusion of last week’s NFL draft.
Any and all former Tigers could face their longtime teammate, defensive end Corey Lemonier, selected in the third round Friday by San Francisco, the site of the second matchup this fall.
“It’s going to be cool to go into this with some familiar faces around you,” said Blake, who signed with the Rams Monday morning. “You can kind of go through it together, which is good.”
Lutzenkirchen’s family, from suburban Atlanta, hosted Blake, an Austin, Texas native, during their freshman season in 2009. As high school seniors, those two and Bates were together at Auburn’s spring football scrimmage – the first on-field appearance by ex-head coach Gene Chizik.
Bates, Blake and Lutzenkirchen won a national championship in 2010 as sophomores, suffered through a 3-9 collapse as seniors, and now will scratch and claw for a chance to jumpstart their professional careers in the same uniform.
“We all came in together, we’re all part of the same class and we’ve been through a lot together,” Blake said. “We’ve always been close.”
There’s a pipeline here: Rams head coach Jeff Fisher’s son, Trent, is a rising senior safety for Auburn.
“I’ve talked to Coach Fisher a few times. I’ve definitely seen his face around, we’ve had some conversations,” Blake said. “It was good to have a previous relationship with the coach and know what he’s like and how good a guy he is.”
The third of the trio to sign, Blake ranks fifth in school history in all three major receiving categories: 128 catches, 2,012 yards and 16 touchdowns.
“I knew there was a chance I wouldn’t get drafted. It wasn’t a shocker, but still definitely disappointing,” Blake said. “You want the best for yourself, you feel like you’ve done enough and worked hard, so of course it was disappointing for me.
“I’m just excited and happy for the opportunity.”
Lutzenkirchen’s 14 touchdown grabs are the most among tight ends in Tigers history. His career figures are 59 catches in 44 games, for 628 yards and 14 touchdowns.
Bates led the Tigers in tackles each of the past two seasons.
This isn’t the only Auburn undrafted tandem hoping to continue on together. According to the Cincinnati Enquirer, tailback Onterio McCalebb and offensive lineman John Sullen signed with the Bengals.