Tom Ruby coached football at so many Central Florida high schools that he became known as "the Lou Saban of Orlando," after the well-traveled college and NFL coach.

And at every stop along the way, he was known as a kind and patient man who mentored and inspired his players to achieve their potential.

Ruby, of Longwood, died July 19 of esophageal cancer. It was his 70th birthday.

He retired in 2009 after a coaching and teaching career that included time at Lake Highland Prep, Edgewater, Bishop Moore, Trinity Prep, Lake Howell, West Orange, Evans and Seminole.

In 1981, he led a team that had been winless the previous year to a 9-1 record.

And in 2008 he was on the coaching staff at Seminole High when the school won a state championship.

"He coached wherever they wanted him," recalled his wife, Susan Ruby. "He just liked being around kids and helping them.

"He was proud of his team members, and he let them know it," she said. "He helped a lot of kids with problems at home, or [who] came from a bad environment, and became a father figure to them."

Caesar Campana coached with Ruby, who was his defensive coordinator, from 1990-2000 at Edgewater High School, and then for another two seasons at Bishop Moore.

"Tom was my co-coach, and everything we did in our program, Tom was just as much a part of that success as anybody," Campana said. "He was my No. 1 adviser."

He recalled Ruby as "a great man who influenced a lot of young men."

At it wasn't just players who benefited from Ruby's influence, Campana said.

"He was great at teaching me — and I'm 10 years younger than him — how to handle kids," Campana said. "Tom taught me to be patient and forgiving. He taught me to handle kids with a lot of tender loving care."

Born in Tampa, Thomas Clark Ruby attended Clemson University for a year before transferring to Western Kentucky. There he starred in football and met his future wife. The couple moved to Central Florida and raised three children.

"He put me on a pedestal the day we were married and that's where I stayed," Susan Ruby said. "He was very proud of his family."

During his career, Ruby also coached track and taught history, health and physical education. After retiring in 2009, he continued to go to high-school games, his wife said.

And last year, Ruby was inducted into the Lake Highland Prep Hall of Fame by members of his 1981 team.

"Those guys are doctors, lawyers, and business owners now," Susan Ruby said. "And they came out to our house last December when they found out Tom had cancer and brought him a signed football.

"He was just one of those guys that everyone loved."

In addition to his wife, Ruby is survived by his mother, Phoebe Smith Ruby of Sanford; brothers Perry Ruby of Port Charlotte and Chipley Ruby of DeBary; daughters Kimberly Bledsoe of Apopka and Ashley Patrick of Cass City, Mich.; son Eric Ruby of Tampa; and three grandchildren.

Baldwin-Fairchild Funeral Home, Oaklawn Chapel, Sanford, is handling arrangements.

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