If you didn't already know what Earle Bruce meant to the Ohio State community, you only needed to look at Twitter on Friday to see how much he meant to Buckeyes coaches and players, both past and present, as well as many others.
In the hours following the Friday morning announcement that Bruce had died at the age of 87, tributes to the former Ohio State coach poured in on social media, in which Bruce was remembered for bringing toughness to the Buckeyes on the field but for his kindness, generosity and love of family off the field, all the while demonstrating a love and passion for Ohio State that few others have matched.
Although Bruce's coaching career at Ohio State concluded in 1987 after nine seasons leading the Buckeyes, he continued to have a presence around the Ohio State football program in the decades to come, especially in recent years.
Current Ohio State coach Urban Meyer is among those whose lives were most profoundly impacted by Bruce, who Meyer has long considered to be a mentor and father figure. Bruce played an integral role in launching Meyer's college football coaching career, hiring him as a graduate assistant at Ohio State in 1986 and later as a wide receivers coach at Colorado State in 1990, and in turn, Meyer made sure to keep Bruce close to the program once he became Ohio State's head coach in 2011.
Buckeye Nation lost one of its own. Thoughts and prayers to the Bruce Family. My mentor and friend, thank you for all you did for The Ohio State University, and all those players and coaches whose lives you made a difference in. pic.twitter.com/mveMGFHWXO
— Urban Meyer (@OSUCoachMeyer) April 20, 2018
"I’ve made it clear many times that, other than my father, Coach Bruce was the most influential man in my life," Meyer said in a statement. "Every significant decision I’ve made growing up in this profession was with him involved in it. His wife [Jean] and he were the role models for Shelley and me. They did everything with class. He was not afraid to show how much he loved his family and cared for his family."
Meyer wasn't Bruce's only connection to Ohio State's current coaching staff. Bruce's grandson, Zach Smith, has been the wide receivers coach at Ohio State since Meyer arrived. Smith remembered him Friday as "one of the finest men I've ever met."
RIP to one of the finest men Ive ever met. The impact he had on those he loved, cared about, coached and mentored has left a legacy that will pay forward for generations. No greater example than the impact hes had on me. He will be missed but his presence here lives on. pic.twitter.com/pz5xdNPaPi
— Zach Sith #Zone6 (@CoachZachSmith) April 20, 2018
Ohio State running backs coach Tony Alford, meanwhile, played for Bruce when Bruce was the head coach at Colorado State. Alford remembered Bruce in multiple tweets on Friday, describing him as "a father figure, mentor &, most importantly, a leader of young men."
— Coach Tony Alford (@CoachTonyAlford) April 20, 2018
— Coach Tony Alford (@CoachTonyAlford) April 20, 2018
In his nine years coaching the Buckeyes, Bruce coached some of Ohio State's all-time greats, including Keith Byars and Chris Spielman, both of whom also tweeted tributes to Bruce on Friday.
My heart goes out to the passing of my Hall of Fame College Coach Earle Bruce. I learned a great deal from him on and off the field. Rest in Heaven Coach. pic.twitter.com/IvF4mbSnHp
— Keith Byars (@KAB41) April 20, 2018
Well said Zach. Your words speak for many of us https://t.co/n9UmXPe6j0
— Chris Spielman (@chris_spielman) April 20, 2018
Including Meyer, Bruce also worked with a long list of assistant coaches who have gone on to have head coaching careers of their own, including Glen Mason and Mark Dantonio, who shared their own tributes to Bruce.
Sad! Lost another GREAT one today. Coach Earle Bruce. Coach, me and Fred Pagac along with Earles college friend George Matte. pic.twitter.com/Mbhoa42RUp
— Glen Mason (@BTNGlenMason) April 20, 2018
— Mark Dantonio (@DantonioMark) April 20, 2018
Friday's tributes to Bruce, however, were far from limited to players who actually played for Bruce. Because of the presence he continued to have around Ohio State even after he was no longer coaching the Buckeyes, Bruce was fondly remembered on Friday by many Ohio State players from the decades since.
— Luke Fickell (@CoachFick) April 20, 2018
Never met a man with more passion for @OhioStateFB than The Bruce. I will forever remember his impassioned Thursday speeches before the @UMichFootball games. Even till his last breath he wanted to win The Game https://t.co/4X6ZnkaUjK
— Bobby Carpenter (@Bcarp3) April 20, 2018
— Matt Finkes (@MattFinkes) April 20, 2018
Rest In Peace to a real Coach Bruce. Your legacy is forever embedded in the Buckeye Culture. Love
— Michael Thomas (@Cantguardmike) April 20, 2018
He was a great man, and a true inspiration to all who were fortunate to cross his path. Prayers to his family. He will be dearly missed. (2/2)
— Anthony Gonzalez (@anthonygonzalez) April 20, 2018
A great man and a great legacy. https://t.co/gmSFmaOYJy
— Ben Hartsock (@BenHartsock) April 20, 2018
RIP Earl Bruce you were always someone I listened to and I appreciate the advice you gave! The heavens are truly grateful to have you.
— Cam Heyward (@CamHeyward) April 20, 2018
RIP coach EarL Bruce ...Ill never forget your pep talks before playing that T.U.N every year. It would be damn near impossible to find Someone who loves Ohio state more than this man https://t.co/yZbAnxnrib Easy. #BuckeyeLegend
— Etienne Sabino (@bino6) April 20, 2018
RIP to a legendary coach! Ive been very fortunate to get to know you during my time at Ohio State! pic.twitter.com/NSNwh7H6dk
— Nick Vannett (@N_Vannett81) April 20, 2018
Friday's tributes to Bruce weren't limited to those who played or coached football at Ohio State. Legendary former Buckeye golfer Jack Nicklaus, basketball assistant coach Ryan Pedon and the Ohio State marching band – who chose Bruce to dot the "i" before the Buckeyes' 2016 game against Rutgers – were also among those who remembered Bruce on Friday.
— Jack Nicklaus (@jacknicklaus) April 20, 2018
RIP Earle Bruce. I grew up watching his teams and always admired his leadership, fierce competitiveness and love for @OhioState
— Ryan Pedon (@ryanpedon) April 20, 2018
Today, we've lost a member of our band family. Earle Bruce was one of TBDBITL's greatest fans, and we continue to be inspired by him. Our hearts are with the Bruce family. pic.twitter.com/AW5oXJnCav
— The Ohio State University Marching Band (@TBDBITL) April 20, 2018
Ohio State University president Michael Drake released a statement on Bruce's passing.
"On behalf of all Buckeye Nation, Brenda and I extend our deepest condolences to Earle Bruce’s family and friends," Drake said. "He was a great family man, a hall of fame football coach and a mentor to so many at Ohio State and beyond. He left an indelible mark on our football program, our university and the greater community. Earle, his late wife, Jean, and their family have helped raised more than $1 million to fund Alzheimer’s research at Ohio State, supporting drug therapies for the treatment of degenerative disorders, social work and outreach for affected families, and more. Coach Bruce was a great Buckeye — and he will be remembered always and greatly missed."
Tributes for Bruce also came in from other college football coaches from throughout the country, including Michigan's Jim Harbaugh; Texas' Tom Herman, who had the opportunity to build a relationship with Bruce when he was Ohio State's offensive coordinator for the first three years of Meyer's tenure; and Matt Campbell of Iowa State, where Bruce coached before becoming the Buckeyes' coach.
The UofM football program and Harbaugh family send our prayers and condolences to the Earle Bruce family on the passing of a football icon. Simply said Coach Bruce was a respected husband, father, friend and football coach.
— Coach Harbaugh (@CoachJim4UM) April 20, 2018
My heart goes out to the Bruce family. It was a joy and a privilege to be around Coach Bruce and his wisdom for three years. He will be missed. pic.twitter.com/xIn49c9aDL
— Coach Tom Herman (@CoachTomHerman) April 20, 2018
Our thoughts and prayers are with Earl Bruces Family this morning. The Iowa State and Ohio football families lost a legend today. A true inspiration for so many coaches. He left a legacy for many to follow and will not be forgotten. #CultureChanger
— Matt Campbell (@ISUMattCampbell) April 20, 2018
Several media members who had the opportunity to cover or get to know Bruce also shared fond memories of the former Buckeyes coach.
There was no one who loved Ohio State more than Coach Bruce. No one. Not even close.
— Beau Bishop (@BeauBishop) April 20, 2018
Just seeing the news about Earle Bruce. Terribly sad day for Ohio State. This is one of my favorite photos I took covering the Buckeyes, at the coaches clinic two years ago. Earle was thriving that day, eager to learn and talk with anybody. That's how I'll remember him. pic.twitter.com/YB7Y5lWZun
— Eric Seger (@EricSeger33) April 20, 2018
Many years I sat across from Earle Bruce at media lunches for coach Tressel midweek pressers. I didn't know then what a lucky seat that was. His passion was contagious. #RIP
— Anthony Rothman (@AnthonyRothman) April 20, 2018
Covered last 4 years of Earle Bruce tenure at @OhioStateFB and though there were ups and downs, especially 1987, he always treated me with respect and candor, and vice versa. Past his passion for the game and OSU, he was at his core a standup man. RIP Earle Bruce
— Tim May (@TIM_MAYsports) April 20, 2018
Those tweets are all just a sampling of the many tributes made Friday to Bruce, whose legacy at Ohio State and lasting impact on the program should continue for many years to come.