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Rudy Re-Visited

April 03, 2016

Rudy Ruettiger, whose inspirational story as a walk-on for the 1975 Notre Dame football team rocketed him to national fame, lit up a large and appreciative crowd with his life story at the 9th annual St. Vincent de Paul Benefit for the Poor dinner last April in Sacramento.

Maev and Rudy

[Editor's Note: Maev Dunning, one of my favorite Young Vincentians, provided this article about Rudy Ruettiger, last year’s featured speaker at the St. Vincent de Paul Society Annual Benefit for the Poor Dinner, as an “exclusive” to the Council. Pictured above are Maev and Rudy.] 

Rudy

by Maev Dunning

Rudy Ruettiger, whose inspirational story as a walk-on for the 1975 Notre Dame football team rocketed him to national fame, lit up a large and appreciative crowd with his life story at the 9th annual St. Vincent de Paul Benefit for the Poor dinner last April in Sacramento.

“Getting what you want is only a problem if you have nowhere to go next,” Ruettiger told the rapt gathering. “Dreaming is a lifetime occupation.”

Mixing humorous anecdotes with poignant life-changing moments, Ruettiger explained that not only did his dream of playing for the Fightin” Irish come true, but that everyone has a similar opportunity in life if they never quit on their goals and aspirations.

Ruettiger’s never-say-die saga would make a great Hollywood movie. In fact, it is a great Hollywood movie. Released in 1993, “Rudy” was an instant blockbuster and has been rated by some movie reviewers as among the top ten sports films of all time.

Undersized and nowhere near as talented as his full scholarship teammates at the most storied program in college football history, Rudy nevertheless convinced legendary head coach Ara Parseghian in the fall of 1974 to allow him to at least participate in Notre Dame practice sessions, where over time he earned the deep respect of his teammates. There was no promise or expectation that he would ever play in an actual football game in Notre Dame Stadium on a Saturday afternoon.

But one day, play he did. While he did not play in 1974, his moment of glory finally came in 1975, when former Green Bay Packers head coach Dan Devine took over Notre Dame’s fortunes from Parseghian.

Near the end of the season, at the urging of Notre Dame’s players, whose admiration for Rudy’s spirit and desire continued to grow throughout the fall of 1975, the team captain went to Devine and asked him to give Rudy a chance to play in a real game.

On November 8, 1975, in the final 27 seconds of Notre Dame’s game against Georgia Tech, Devine put Rudy into the game as a defensive end. Rudy made the most of his once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, sacking Georgia Tech quarterback Rudy Allen on the final play of the game.

But Rudy’s message to the Benefit for the Poor crowd touched on much, much more than the game of football. It was a talk about life and learning and living every day to the best of your ability. Now a highly sought after motivational speaker, Ruettiger’s consistent theme, no matter the challenges one may face, is “Yes I can.”

As his official website explains, “Rudy’s dream was real. The movie was made to tell a story that would inspire others, to let people know that no matter what the odds, they can overcome them. No matter what your background, your grades, or your size, you can find a way.”


Sidebar Story

Reflections on the Evening

I attended the St. Vincent de Paul Dinner for the Poor in April and found Rudy Ruettiger to be very inspiring. His strong message of “Yes I can” and his powerful story inspired me to continue to follow my dreams.

I had seen the movie Rudy, and was interested to see what he was like in person. As the movie portrayed, Rudy was enthusiastic and confident. However, after speaking personally with him, I learned that there was much more to him than the movie showed. He was very approachable, and, unlike some celebrities, he wasn’t arrogant or full of himself.

What I found to be most inspiring about Rudy was his belief that if you work hard and don’t give up, you can achieve anything.

He worked very hard to live his dream, and that inspired me to work to reach my goals, one of which is to one day become a member of the St. Vincent de Paul Society so I can participate in some of the great work that they do.

Rudy’s “can do” message will definitely stay with me.

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Maev Dunning is a 14-year-old ninth grader at Oliver Wendell Holmes Junior High School in Davis, California, where she is editor of the school newspaper. Several years ago, Maev was one of 32 youth nationwide selected as Kids Press Corps reporters for the national publication Scholastic News. She was assigned to cover Northern California. Maev, who has five brothers and sisters, is interested in writing, rock climbing, photography and playing the piano.She is a member of St. James Parish in Davis and will be confirmed along with her sister, Molly, in May this year.

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