Rudy Ruettiger

Rudy Ruettiger

Ruettiger (45) at 1975 Georgia Tech game
Notre Dame Fighting Irish No. 45
Position Defensive end
Class 1976
Major Sociology
Career history

Holy Cross College (Indiana) (1972–1974)

High school Joliet (IL) Catholic
Personal information
Date of birth (1948-08-23) August 23, 1948
Place of birth Joliet, Illinois
Height 5 ft 6 in (1.68 m)
Weight 165 lb (75 kg)
Career highlights and awards
The first player to have been carried off the field at Notre Dame. Played only two defensive snaps recording one sack.

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.

Early life and college career

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.[1] 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.[2][3]

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 Rudy to dress for his last game. However, in actuality, it was Devine who came up with the idea to dress Rudy. In the final play of Ruettiger's senior season with the Fighting Irish, he recorded a sack,[4] which is all his Notre Dame stat line has ever shown. Ruettiger actually played for three plays.[4] The first play was a kickoff,[4] the second play was an incomplete pass, and on the third (and final) play he sacked[4] Georgia Tech quarterback Rudy Allen.[5] Ruettiger was carried off the field by his teammates following the game.

Ruettiger signing autographs after speaking at Ohio University, January 2010

Ruettiger was one of two players in Notre Dame history to ever be carried off the field by his teammates. The other is Marc Edwards.[6][7]

After college

The inaugural 2007 College Football Rudy Award was held on 8 January 2008 at the Opryland Hotel in Nashville, Tennessee.[8] 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.[9] 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.[10] Notre Dame ultimately lost the game.

In July 2009, Ruettiger was initiated into the Kappa Sigma Fraternity at the Grand Conclave in San Antonio, Texas.[11]

In September 2009, Trusted Sports and Rudy 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 Rudy 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 as Rudy. The film was written by Angelo Pizzo, directed by David Anspaugh and produced by Rob Fried, both of whom were involved in Hoosiers. Ruettiger appeared in a cameo as a fan behind Rudy's father and brother during the final scene.[12]

SEC indictment

In 2011, Ruettiger was charged with security fraud by the SEC, for participating in a pump-and-dump scheme. Settlement of the case required Ruettiger to pay $382,866 in fines, though he was not required to admit guilt.[13]



Truth in the movie

Ruetigger has gone on to say that the movie was "98% true" such as how the players did not set down their jerseys, but instead the captain requested he be on the team. Also, Dan Devine is given an antagonistic role in the film, but in real life he was one of Ruetigger's biggest motivators to return to the team. He has also stated that there was never a "Rudy" chant during that final game, although in an interview for "The True Rudy Story" he begins crying when recalling how the crowd chanted "Rudy" at 5:18 into the video.[14] The groundskeeper was also a combination of three different characters in that part of his life.



  • Pagna, Tom, "Notre Dame's Era of Ara", Diamond Communications, Inc., 1976, ISBN 0-912083-74-3, pp 182–183, regarding Parseghian's use of walk-ons.
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