Playing For Lutz: Harris Wears #43 With Pride

Auburn commitment Jalen Harris talks about wearing No. 43 in Philip Lutzenkirchen's honor, his season, his commitment to Auburn and more.

Montgomery, Ala.--It’s times like these when Auburn tight end commitment Jalen Harris misses his mentor Philip Lutzenkirchen the most. Walking off the field following a 31-21 loss to rival Trinity that cost St. James an undefeated region record, Harris and the Trojans had not played well and not held their composure. That included a personal foul on Harris, something he’s sure Lutzenkirchen would not have approved of happening.

Through all the ups and downs that are high school football and teenage life, Harris can still take with him some of the life lessons he learned from Lutz as well as the football skills he picked up at the tight end position. Wearing No. 43 in honor of the former Auburn standout who lost his life in an auto accident over the summer, Harris said he can’t imagine a bigger honor.

“I take a whole lot of pride in it,” Harris said of wearing the number. “I cherish every moment I’m in this jersey. I go out there and during the game I’m just thinking about helping my team, but there are some plays when we’re down or we need a play when I say ‘I’ve got this jersey on and it’s for a reason.’ I want to go out there and play as hard as he would and as hard as he would want me to play.”

Harris and his teammates are all wearing the No. 43 sticker to honor Lutzenkirchen

With his team down after a loss and trying to get regrouped for the playoffs ahead, Harris said this is when he feels the presence of Lutzenkirchen the most.

“It’s just the man he was,” Harris said. “He was a great man and very humble. I had a personal foul out there and that’s probably something he wouldn’t do, but it was in the heat of the game a little bit. I’m sure I’ll get some extra sprints in for that, but I want to wear this jersey with character. I think I have been doing that this whole season.”

Now the focus for Harris is getting ready as his team prepares to face Marbury this week before playing host to Munford in the first round of the Class 4A playoffs the next week. Harris said it’s all about improving as a team and putting the loss behind them, something he believes is part of his responsibility as one of the veterans on the squad.

“My team worked hard in the offseason,” Harris said. “We came in with a whole new mindset this year. We wanted to be a whole new team from last year and I think we have proven that throughout the season.

"I have just been working hard with my team trying to be a leader. I probably didn’t show it as much (against Trinity) and could have stepped up and made some big plays, but sometimes the ball just doesn’t bounce your way. It’s something we’ll have to improve on next week.

“It’s a learning experience and it humbles you a little bit,” he added of the loss that dropped the Trojans to 7-2 overall with the only other loss coming to 6A Park Crossing. “We came in thinking we were the better team. We came in with the mindset that we wanted to win this game. Sometimes we don’t play like we’re the best team out there. That’s just small stuff we can work on during practice. This week we’ll play Marbury and then get ready for the playoffs.”

Harris goes up high to try to grab a pass in Friday's loss

The good news for Harris is that he doesn’t have to juggle the craziness that is recruiting with his busy school and football schedule after committing to play football at Auburn during the summer. Making a visit over last Saturday to see the Tigers take down South Carolina, Harris spent time with fellow commitments such as Chandler Cox while on campus.

That’s just another part of the life of Harris as he plans to spend plenty of his valuable free time in the coming months helping to show more prospects what Auburn is all about from his perspective. Already getting called a future coach by his father because of how much time spends talking with fellow recruits, Harris said that’s just part of being a Tiger and he’s excited about what the future holds on the Plains.

“It’s a strong commitment and I’m not looking to change,” Harris said. “I’m a man of my word. I love being committed to Auburn. I get War Eagles from random people, people that will just see me when I’m out to eat with my family. It’s all a great experience and I just can’t wait to get there.”

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