“You knew at the end of the day and when your career was over that he was always going to be there for you,” Smith said. “He's just such a kind, genuine kind of guy.
“And he always has your back. I would email him and call him, and he always had suggestions on whether I should coach or something like that. When I had trouble with my family, he was there, telling me I had to focus.”
Budke's former players marvel at the way he balanced being tough, and yet soft; intense, then cutting up.
“He had a way, it probably came from being a parent,” said Megan Byford, who played at OSU from 2007-10. “And that's how he treated us, like his own kids.
“He was tough on us when he knew we needed it, but he had compassion and knew when to lighten up and lighten the mood a little bit, too.”
And nothing ever lightened the mood like that bold orange blazer he'd wear for big games. It remains a favorite moment and story for those Cowgirls.
A gift before OSU's upset of Oklahoma in 2008, Budke first broke it out for that Bedlam encounter.
“We're warming up, and he's got on his all black,” said Hardeman. “I said, ‘Coach, where's your orange?' He was like, ‘You just wait for the orange.'
“Then he comes busting through the locker room, yelling like I've never heard in my life. And he thought he looked so good and he was so proud. He said, ‘Hardeman, look what I have!'
“I was just laughing, because it was so funny.”
The Cowgirls will miss Budke in that orange blazer, which was wrapped around his chair on the bench during Monday's memorial service.
They will miss the life lessons, too. And the love.
“Silently, he taught us things I don't think he even knows,” Clardy said. “And that's what's hard, I wish I could tell him. I wish I could tell him all he did. I know he knows some things, but there are things I wish we wouldn't have held back.
“I think that's something we're all going to take from this. When there's something you want to tell someone you love, you tell them. And you say thank you. Life is too short. None of us understand what or why. It doesn't seem real.
“But I wish I had another hug. His hugs were the best. You could tell he was a dad when he hugged you. The hugs are what I'll miss. And they're hugs that I'll never forget.”