Tom Bradley's tribute to Joe Paterno

Tom Bradley played for Joe Paterno, coached on Paterno's staff for more than 30 years and took over for Paterno following Paterno's firing on Nov. 9. Bradley, who served as Penn State's defensive coordinator from 2000-2011, issued the following statement on Paterno's passing earlier Sunday.

Bradley said on "SportsCenter" earlier today that Paterno will "go down as the greatest college football coach of all time."

Here's Bradley's tribute:

Words seem to pale in a moment such as this. The terms "icon" and "legend" have often been used to describe Joe Paterno. Certainly, he was both within the world of college athletics. But to those of us who played for him, to those of us who coached with him and to those of us who had the privilege to call him a friend, Joe Paterno was much more.

To me, he was my mentor for 37 years, and the lessons that I learned from him as a player, coach and friend will live on with me forever. It was Coach Paterno who saw what I could be and helped me to realize that potential. He was a tremendous teacher not because he knew all of the answers but because he challenged us to find the answers for ourselves. He made us better men than we believed we could be -- both on and off the field. And when we lost our way or became unsure of ourselves, it was Coach Paterno who was there to encourage us, guide us and remind us that we must always strive to succeed with honor.

Coach Paterno never believed his role as "coach" ended after practice, or when the fourth quarter wound down or when a student-athlete graduated. He was a coach for life. I am deeply grateful to have had Coach Paterno in my life. He was the epitome of class and his spirit will live on in all of us who had the great honor of knowing him and running out of the tunnel with him on so many autumn Saturdays.

My thoughts and prayers are with Coach Paterno's devoted wife, Sue, his son Jay, with whom I coached so many years, and with the entire Paterno family during this sad and difficult time.