TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Even though University of Alabama student Luke Ratliff wasn't an official part of the Crimson Tide athletics department, his death shook both it and the university to its core Friday night.
Social media had been active all night after friends relayed the seriousness of his medical situation as Ratliff struggled with complications from the coronavirus, and his family called for "All the prayers you have please."
Among those to respond and ask for more were head coach Nate Oats and athletic director Greg Byrne.
Oats later posted a heartfelt message after Ratliff's death had been confirmed.
"Devastating news. Doesn’t seem real. Fluff has been our biggest supporter since day one. Put all he had into our program. Loved sharing this ride with him. You’ll be missed dearly my man! Wish we had one more victory cigar and hug together. Roll Tide Forever. @fluffopotamus88"
Twitter was full of both remembrances and tributes from both rivals and colleagues, and scores of people who described him as being a friend.
The athletic department's reaction was a simple symbol, one that was subsequently used by many:
Senior forward Alex Reese, who hit the dramatic three-pointer to send the UCLA game to overtime on Sunday (with Ratliff in attendance in Indianapolis), used the word: "Devastated."
Walk-on Tyler Barnes:
"Really don’t have the words man. He lit up every room with his smile and lived life with so much energy and joy. A legend that is gone too soon."
Walk-on Britton Johnson:
"Shocked and heartbroken over the sudden passing of fluff. A legend and a friend. He will be missed dearly. Praying for the Ratliff family during this tragic time. Man this one hurts!"
Crystal Oats, wife of head coach Nate Oats:
"Just devastated! Enjoyed listening to his podcast. I remember when I told him how much I enjoyed it. I encouraged him to continue even after graduating. His eyes lit up with delight and possibility. All of that potential gone too soon. We will miss u."
Former Crimson Tide player Levi Randolph:
Former Crimson Tide player Raymond Hawkins:
Women's basketball coach Kristy Curry:
Basketball Director of Operations Adam Bauman:
"Shocked & Saddened. The most genuine and passionate person I have ever met. Gone entirely too soon."
Baseball coach Brad Bohanon dedicated Friday's win in Ratliff's honor.
Crimson Tide Sports Network analyst Bryan Passink
The corresponding video is from the 2019-20 season, when first-year coach Nate Oats was asked about the leader of the student section.