By JASON EPP
Leader & Times
Even before Daniel ‘Rudy’ Ruettiger began his speech to the capacity crowd of LHS students at James Maskus Auditorium, you could hear the chant begin, “Rudy! Rudy! Rudy!” mimicking the final and pinnacle scene from the 1993 movie ‘Rudy’ that told the extraordinary story of Ruettiger reaching his dream of playing football at Notre Dame.
Never mind that not a single current LHS student was alive when the movie was released or that Ruettiger’s famous moment on the sod of Knute Rockne Stadium happened almost 40 years ago, he is still inspiring the next generation with passion.
Rudy stressed to his audience to “persevere, have a dream, live a life of character, and to git rid of the goofy thoughts.”
The goofy thoughts, he said, were those in a person’s own head that prevent them from stepping out and following their dream.
“You find a way, and when you find that way, you find people who want you to win,” Ruettiger said. “That’s when it happens. You don’t want to be around people who want you to lose when your struggling. You want people to pick you up and encourage you. Finding those type of people is tough. There’s a lot of people that don’t want you to win and people who will fake you out. You know those voices when you hear them. You have to have the courage to walk away from it.”
Ruettiger not only had to walk away from those voices to make it to Notre Dame, but in getting the movie ‘Rudy’ made. He struggled for 10 years trying to find the right connection in Hollywood to get his movie made.
“Making the movie was the hardest,” Ruettiger said. “Bringing Hollywood and Notre Dame together because neither of them wanted to do it. We had to have a special guy see the story. That guy was Frank Price, the president of Columbia Pictures, and a walk-on at Michigan State. That’s how things happen.”
Ruettiger has been overwhelmed at the famous people who have been moved by his movie, telling stories of encounters with Sylvester Stallone, Kobe Bryant, and a trip to the White House to watch his film with President Bill Clinton.
“When Kobe told my son I was his hero,” Ruettiger said. “That was quite a moment. ‘Rocky’ inspired me to do my movie. I wrote Sylvester Stallone a letter but he never responded. Later on he was on the cover of Cigar Aficionado. He stated in the article ‘I don’t want to be remembered as Rambo or Rocky, I want to be remembered like my friend Rudy, who is remembered as a pain in the butt in a positive way.’ That’s pretty cool that you can touch someone like that.”
Ruettiger has moved beyond his dream of making the team at Notre Dame, past the dream of seeing his story become a movie. His dream now is to inspire everyone he comes in contact with to reach through the negativity to the other side and pursue their dreams with great passion.
“You find the other side of you,” Ruettiger said. “We all have it. You just have to get to that side. That’s the challenge.”