Rudy – Daniel “Rudy” Ruettiger & Notre Dame Football
Daniel “Rudy” Ruettiger and Notre Dame Football
Rudy (1993) tells the story of Daniel “Rudy” Ruettiger (Sean Astin), a young man from the working-class city of Joliet, Illinois who dreams of one day playing football at the University of Notre Dame, a team that he has been a lifelong diehard fan of. Because of his poor grades, working-class background, and (most significantly) his small stature, Rudy’s aspirations are never taken seriously, especially by his older brother Frank (Scott Benjaminson). The only person who believes in him is his lifelong friend Pete (Christopher Reed), who works with Rudy and his father (Ned Beatty) at a local steel mill. However, after Pete dies in an accident Rudy sees it as a sign that he should not waste any more time in pursuing his dreams and leaves for South Bend.
A friendly priest named Father Cavanaugh (Robert Prosky) helps Rudy enroll at the adjacent junior college with the hope that he could transfer to Norte Dame if he gets high grades. He soon becomes friends with a tutor, D-Bob (Jon Favreau), and also discovers that he is dyslexic, which explains his lifelong learning difficulties. Rudy also volunteers to work for free at Notre Dame Stadium alongside the groundskeeper Fortune (Charles S. Dutton). Because money is tight, Rudy ends up secretly living at the Stadium. Though he is rejected for a few semesters, Notre Dame finally accepts Rudy as a transfer in his final semester of eligibility. He manages to become a rare walk-on player for the Fighting Irish when the coaches recognize his immense heart and he is placed on the practice squad. However, Rudy’s chances of actually playing in a game are virtually zero. Nonetheless, when he asks Coach Ara Parseghian (Jason Miller) if he could dress for a game his senior year, Parseghian agrees. However, Parseghian later leaves Notre Dame to start a broadcasting career.
The new coach, Dan Devine (Chelcie Ross), does not allow him to dress for any of the games in his final season, and leaves Rudy off the dress list for the final home game. Since Rudy’s quest has become less about personal satisfaction and more about proving himself to everyone who ever doubted him, he quits the team in frustration. Fortune chews him out for feeling sorry for himself and reveals to Rudy that he had played for Notre Dame years earlier but quit because he felt he was not being played because of his race, a decision he has regretted every day of his life. He tells Rudy, “In this life time you don’t have to prove nothing to nobody except yourself.” However, after each Notre Dame player stacks his jersey on Devine’s desk in protest, Devine reconsiders and lets Rudy dress.
On the day of the game, with Rudy’s parents, Frank, D-Bob, and Fortune in attendance, Notre Dame Stadium erupts when Rudy leads the team out to the field. While the crowd remains ecstatic for what appears to be an easy Notre Dame victory against Georgia Tech, Devine still refuses to play Rudy. One of Rudy’s teammates begins to chant “Rudy, Rudy,” and the fans gradually join in. As the thundering chant echoes throughout the stadium, the offensive team purposely runs up the score with another touchdown in an attempt to give Rudy a chance to get on the field. Devine finally relents and Assistant Coach Joe Yonto (Ron Dean) sends Rudy in for kickoff coverage to an explosive response by the crowd. Afterwards, a confused Rudy is told by Yonto to stay on the field for the game’s final seven seconds. But instead of simply waiting out the clock, Rudy ends the game by sacking the Georgia Tech quarterback and is carried off the field by his teammates. Two final title cards reveal that since 1975 no other Notre Dame player has been carried off the field and that five of Rudy’s younger brothers went on to also receive college degrees.
Contributing author: Chris McKittrick
Real Life, Reel Differences
- The movie portrayed Rudy’s father as always being very negative and unsupportive of Rudy’s desire to play football; in reality, his father was not as harsh but agreed to be portrayed as such on film to make it more dramatic.
- Rudy had two older sisters and he was the oldest brother in a family of 14 children. In the movie, the fictitious and antagonistic older brother, Frank, was a creation of the filmmakers. Frank’s treatment of Rudy in the movie was meant to represent all of the doubters in Rudy’s life.
- In one of the scenes, Rudy watches Notre Dame play Penn State from the stands. In reality, those two schools did not play against each other until 1982.
- Several of the buildings (such as the Eck Tennis Pavilion and the Rolfs Aquatic Center) shown in the background of the scenes filmed on the Notre Dame campus were not built until after the events of the movie.
- In the movie, Rudy works in a steel mill for four years after high school before going to Holy Cross Junior College. In real life, Rudy worked on a command ship in the Navy for two years and another two years in a power plant before college.
- Pete is a boyhood friend of Rudy’s in the movie, and his death is the inspiration for Rudy to pursue his dreams of attending Notre Dame. In reality, they met while working at the power plant, though Pete’s death in June 1972 actually was the reason why Rudy decided to leave home for Notre Dame.
- The groundskeeper, Fortune, was not a real person; he is a composite of “3 different people who were very influential to Rudy during that time of his life.”
- In the movie, Rudy did not have to sneak around to sleep in the maintenance room in the stadium. In reality, he slept in a room in the basketball arena and he did not have to sneak around because the school actually wanted someone to stay there during off-hours for insurance reasons.
- In the movie, Roland Steele was one of the captains of the football team and led the protest to Head Coach Dan Devine, where the players placed their jerseys on his desk for not letting Rudy suit up. Notre Dame’s co-captains in 1975 were Ed Bauer and Jim Stock, and there was no “jersey mutiny” or even a Roland Steele. In reality, there was an announcement made after the Thursday practice that Rudy would dress for the final home game. Coach Devine was unhappy with his depiction and pointed out in The New York Times that “Anybody who knows me knows that if any kid came in and put his jersey on my desk, he’d never see it again.” Though Devine admitted that he agreed to be portrayed in an antagonistic role, he confessed, “They sent me some papers, and I was stupid enough to sign them without reading them.”
- The movie suggests that the Georgia Tech game is the last game of the season but in reality, it was the last home game. Notre Dame still had two away games left that season. In one of the scenes, there is a fan holding a “Boston College” banner even though Georgia Tech was the opponent. The reason for this is because the filming took place during halftime of a Notre Dame-Boston College game in 1992. In fact, if you watch the player’s jersey numbers closely you can notice numerous continuity errors, which the filmmakers blamed on timing restrictions. “We had eight minutes to film our entire game, have Rudy run out of the tunnel, sack the quarterback, get lifted up by the team and run back into the tunnel,” explained the film’s director, David Anspaugh.
- In the final seconds of the game, Rudy was on the field for two plays, the kickoff and the last play of the game where he sacked the Georgia Tech quarterback. In reality, Devine asked if everyone had a chance to play and when somebody mentioned Rudy’s name, assistant coach George Kelly put him in. He was on the field for three plays, including the kickoff and the sack. In between, there was an incomplete pass. Here is the actual footage of the last few plays from that game:
- The final scene where Rudy is carried off the field was real, but significantly embellished. Pro Football Hall of Famer Joe Montana, who was a teammate of Rudy’s at Notre Dame, said in a 2010 interview, “He did get a sack. And then the guys carried him off, just playing around. I won’t say it was a joke, but it was playing around. He worked his butt off to get where he was and to do the things he did. But not any harder than anyone else.” Additionally, when the movie was released in 1993, the statement at the end of the film that “Since 1975, no other Notre Dame player has been carried off the field,” was true. Two years later, however, another Notre Dame player, future NFL fullback Marc Edwards, was carried off the field by his teammates after an upset win over the University of Southern California Trojans.
Where Are They Now?
Rudy Ruettiger graduated from Notre Dame in 1976 and worked as a Graduate Assistant for a year, then found a job in the insurance industry. Today, Rudy works primarily as an in-demand motivational speaker. In addition, Rudy and his wife Cheryl run The Rudy Foundation, which is devoted to “the support and recognition of those who aspire to fulfill their dreams through character, courage, contribution and commitment”. In 2007, the Rudy Foundation created the College Football Rudy Award to honor Division I football players who exhibit extraordinary characters; an equivalent award was created in 2009 to honor high school football players who exhibit the same extraordinary characteristics. Rudy has co-authored several motivational books, including Rudy’s Insights for Winning in Life, and sells autographed memorabilia and merchandise.
However, questions about Rudy’s own character emerged in 2011 when he was charged with securities fraud by the Securities & Exchange Commission over allegations of stock manipulation involving his Rudy sports drink company. He had to pay $382,866 in fines and later came clean about the allegations in his autobiography, Rudy: My Story (Source: Forbes).
Today Rudy stays in contact with his fans in several ways through the Internet. His website, RudyInternational.com, contains information about booking Rudy for speaking appearances, a “Rudy Store” for purchasing Rudy memorabilia, and offers the opportunity to join his “Rudy Club” for $35 (with a $20 renewal every year thereafter) which gives you access to online chat sessions with Rudy, an autographed signed photo, one of his books, and the e-newsletter. However, the e-newsletter appears to be defunct because there has not been a new issue since 2009.
He also has a presence in social media, but it is unclear how active he is. He has several Twitter accounts: @TheRealRudy, @RudyAwards, and @RudyInt45. There hasn’t been a tweet from the first two accounts since 2010, but as of March 2014 there are several tweets per week from @RudyInt45. Likewise, he has several Facebook pages: RudyTheRealRudy, RudyRuettiger, and RudyInternational, but there hasn’t been a status update posted on the first two pages since December 2013, whereas the RudyInternational page is updated daily.