Daniel Eugene "Rudy" Ruettiger (born August 23, 1948) is a motivational speaker who played college football at the University of Notre Dame. His early life and career at Notre Dame was the inspiration for the 1993 film Rudy.
Daniel Ruettiger (nicknamed "Rudy") had a hard time in school because he was dyslexic. He was the third of fourteen children. He attended Joliet Catholic High School, where he played for locally famous coach Gordie Gillespie. Ruettiger joined the United States Navy after high school, serving as a yeoman on a communications command ship for two years; then he worked in a power plant for two years. He applied to Notre Dame, but due to his marginal grades he had to do his early college work at nearby Holy Cross College.
After two years at Holy Cross, Ruettiger was accepted as a student at Notre Dame on his fourth try, in the fall of 1974. It was during his time studying at Holy Cross that Ruettiger discovered he had dyslexia.
Ruettiger harbored a dream to play for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish football team, despite being undersized at merely 5'6" and 165 pounds. Head coach Ara Parseghian encouraged walk-on players from the student body. For example, Notre Dame's 1969 starting center, Mike Oriard, was a walk-on who was eventually nominated for a Rhodes Scholarship and an NFL contract with the Kansas City Chiefs.
After working as hard as possible and showing that he was willing to work as much as he needed to, Ruettiger earned a place on the Notre Dame scout team, a practice squad that helps the varsity team practice for games. Merv Johnson was the coach who was instrumental in keeping Rudy on as a scout-team player.
After the 1974 season, Notre Dame coach Parseghian stepped down, and former Green Bay Packers coach Dan Devine was named head coach. In Ruettiger's last opportunity to play for Notre Dame at home, Devine put him into a game as defensive end against Georgia Tech on November 8, 1975. In the movie Rudy, Devine is given a somewhat antagonistic role, not wanting Ruettiger to dress for his last game. In the real life scenario, however, it was Devine who came up with the idea to dress Ruettiger. In the final play of Ruettiger's senior season with the Fighting Irish, he recorded a sack, which is all his Notre Dame stat line has ever shown. Ruettiger actually played for three plays. The first play was a kickoff, the second play was an incomplete pass, and on the third (and final) play he sacked Georgia Tech quarterback Rudy Allen. Ruettiger was carried off the field by his teammates following the game.
The inaugural 2007 College Football Rudy Award was held on January 8, 2008 at the Opryland Hotel in Nashville, Tennessee. The College Football Rudy Award was created by the Rudy Foundation and honors Division I football players who demonstrate what Ruettiger refers to as "The Four C's": character, courage, contribution, and commitment as a member of their team. The 2007 award was presented to Terry Clayton of the University of Kentucky Wildcats and the 2008 award was presented to Drew Combs of the Texas Christian University Horned Frogs. The 2009 award-winner was LeVon Morefield of University of Akron Zips, and in 2010 it went to Mark Herzlich of the Boston College Eagles.
On October 14, 2005, Ruettiger was the master of ceremonies at a pep rally for Notre Dame Football. The Fighting Irish were about to play rival and then #1-ranked University of Southern California (USC) the following day and Head Coach Charlie Weis asked some Notre Dame legends, including Tim Brown and Joe Montana, to come back and speak at the rally. Ruettiger came out of the tunnel at Notre Dame Stadium to a loud ovation. Notre Dame ultimately lost the game (though that loss was later vacated due to misconduct by USC).
In September 2009, Trusted Sports and Ruettiger launched the High School Football 'Rudy' Awards, which aims to uncover the "Rudy" on every High School football team in America. The award is presented to the most inspirational High School football player who personifies what Ruettiger calls "The Four C's": Courage, Character, Commitment, and Contribution. Inspired by the College Football Rudy Awards, three finalists were announced on February 3, 2010. The winner, Calob Leindecker of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, received a college scholarship totalling $10,000. Two runners-up, Kyle Weafer of Kansas and Justin Ray Duke of Texas each received $5,000 scholarships.
Ruettiger's story was told in the 1993 film Rudy, which starred actor Sean Astin in the title role. The film was written by Angelo Pizzo and directed by David Anspaugh, both of whom were involved in Hoosiers. Ruettiger appeared in a cameo as a fan behind his father, Ned Beatty, during the final scene.
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Ruettiger has said that the movie is "98% true." The players did not lay down their jerseys, rather, the team captain requested that he be allowed to play. Dan Devine is given an antagonistic role in the film, however, the coach was actually one of his biggest motivators to return to the team. The groundskeeper and former player Fortune is a combination of three different people.