As college football kicks off this weekend, the story of Rudy Ruettiger remains an inspiration
This weekend kicks off the College Football season. Fans around the country are getting ready to don their school colors and root for their favorite university in what should be another exciting year on the gridiron. Speaking of College Football that reminds me of the classic movie that dealt with the ol’ pigskin and it didn’t have the team winning the championship at the end. Instead, it showcased what the human spirit can do under incredibly tough circumstances especially when a person puts their mind and heart into reaching a goal. The title and main character of the film was a guy named ‘Rudy’ Ruettiger. The film came out in 1993 and the lasting image many fans of the movie will fondly recall were of Rudy( being portrayed by actor Sean Astin) being hoisted upon the shoulders of his Notre Dame teammates and carried off the field as the game ended. The crowds were heard chanting “Rudy, Rudy, Rudy” after he made his great tackle on the last play of the only game he ever dressed for in his short career in South Bend. If you were like me and wondered what ever happened to the real Rudy after his moment in the sun after all these years, well I can tell you he’s alive and well living in the Las Vegas suburbs. I met Rudy a few years ago when he was in town visiting with June Jones (SMU coach) and doing some speaking engagements. Rudy is a very successful and highly sought after motivational speaker who travels the globe telling his story of never giving up on your dreams despite the odds. During our lunch Rudy told me some great behind-the-scenes stories on his movie and what he went through to get it made. I can tell you after hearing that tale you have to admire him even more for his determination and fortitude to persevere to get his story on the silver screen when everyone along the way told him it can’t and won’t be done.
Rudy told me the journey to make the movie took about 10 years from start to finish. Rudy said,” I wanted this film to inspire people to take their dreams to the next level. It tells you that you can do it. Despite the odds that are up against you, you can get up and find another way to make it happen. People tend to classify the film as a sports movie, but the people I talk to see it as much more than that. It’s a great feeling when I speak to people and they tell me how the movie has impacted their life. The movie is about a message.. and if I can do it, so can you!” Some interesting tidbits that Rudy told me about making the film included: The actor Charles S. Dutton who played the janitor in the film that befriends him didn’t actually exist. The Janitor character represented a few people who were very influential to him during that period of his life. However, for the film they didn’t have enough time in the movie to develop those people, so the filmmaker condensed all of those important people into one person to tell the story. I asked Rudy did the players on the team actually go to the coaches office and lay their jerseys on his table and tell them to let Rudy play in their place? Rudy said,” No, that scene was put into the film to show respect that the team had for me.” In reality, the team captain, who was speaking on the behalf of the team went to the coach and asked him to give me a chance in the final game and let him dress and play in the game. The crowd scenes during Rudy’s final game were filmed during halftime of a real game between Notre Dame and Boston College in 1992. Prior to the film “Rudy” only one other film was ever allowed to shoot on Notre Dame’s campus and that was Knute Rockne: All American. Rudy told me he did get to make a cameo in the film. Near the end of the movie Rudy can be seen sitting in the stands behind actor Ned Beatty (Rudy’s dad in the movie). After Rudy(actor Sean Astin) makes the historic tackle Ned Beatty turns around and tugs on the real Rudy’s jacket while everyone is cheering. In the end, the film makers took some artistic license to modify the story to help it move along quicker.
Finally, I feel it’s important to let people know a guy like Rudy just doesn’t talk the talk. Awhile back one of my top junior golfers was involved with an unfortunate accident in which one of his eyes was seriously injured. This player was really affected by the incident as his eyesight was impaired and really impacted not only in his golf game, but his mind-set and attitude. I could tell he was really down and I happened to be speaking to Rudy on the phone and mentioned this to him and he asked if it would be okay to call the young man. Well, when I told my student that the real Rudy would like to speak with him you could see his whole demeanor change. Rudy ended up speaking with him for about 15-20 minutes and it really was nice to see how much it meant to this youngster hearing words of inspiration coming directly from the man whose movie he watched countless amounts of time. Needless to say the message was received loud and clear to the young golfer. He is attending college now on a golf scholarship and his game isn’t what it used to be since the accident, but he’s taking a negative situation and turning it into a positive one. He is currently studying to become an eye doctor (ophthalmologist) to help others with their vision. Rudy is a truly passionate man and when you’re around him that spirit rubs off on you. Also, Rudy is about to embark on a tour around the country to promote his new book. To learn more about this remarkable man and his message and how to book him for your next function to inspire others go to his website www.rudyinternational.com Ok, Everyone let’s hear it! Rudy, Rudy, Rudy…