Auburn football program continues to deal with recent tragedy

jerickson@ledger-enquirer.comJuly 18, 2012 

HOOVER, Ala. -- Auburn head coach Gene Chizik opened his remarks at SEC Media Days on Wednesday by addressing the June 9 shooting that rocked the Tigers’ football program.

The shooting claimed the lives of three men, including former Auburn football players Ladarious Phillips and Ed Christian, and wounded three others, including current Auburn guard Eric Mack.

“I’d like to take this opportunity to start out to thank so many people for their outpouring of love and prayers and e-mails and phone calls to the Auburn family,” Chizik said.

In the immediate aftermath of the shooting, which police allege was committed by Desmonte Leonard, Chizik acted quickly.

Both Phillips and Christian were a part of the team last season, and Mack’s injury left Auburn’s players shocked.

“It hit us hard,” Blake said. “You know, Coach Chizik did a great job of providing counselors, pastors, whatever it took, to try to get guys feeling better.”

Chizik said the team’s recovery is still an ongoing process. Mack, who was released from the hospital the morning after the shooting, is still recovering, and the lasting effects of the night remain.

Tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen declined to comment when asked if the shooting and Zeke Pike’s subsequent arrest for public intoxication had forced Chizik to implement a strict curfew.

“He and I talked about it (Tuesday) night for a good long while,” Chizik said. “Health-wise, we’re trying to move him through that.”

Beyond the counselors and pastors, Auburn’s players have relied on their teammates to rebound from the tragedy. So far, Lutzenkirchen said, there have been no concrete plans to memorialize Phillips and Christian once the season starts, although a plan could still be coming.

Football may be just around the corner -- an SEC Media Days appearance means two-a-days are approaching quickly -- but Auburn is still repairing itself after a tragic night in June.

“They, without question, are still dealing with some of those issues,” Chizik said. “We got to still plow through some of those tough days, and we know that.”

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