Recently, the movie “Rudy” was showing on a movie channel and although I had seen it many, many times, I decided to watch it again on this cold, drizzling day. There has never been a movie that inspires me more than this one. It portrays the story a young man in the 1970’s who with no encouragement and many obstacles was accepted into Notre Dame eventually earning enough respect from the coaches and player of the football team to be allowed to play two plays during a game despite being only 5’5″ tall and weighing 165 pounds. It is a tale of determination and a personal fight to live up to standards he set for himself. The list of obstacles must have seemed insurmountable; however, he kept his eyes on his goals and one by one resolved his problems to reach the ultimate one.
Born in 1948, Daniel Eugene Ruettiger was the third of fourteen children whose educational experience was consistently marked by low grades. For Rudy’s family, Notre Dame was their equivalent of the Holy Grail and he burned to attend there and to be a part of the Fighting Irish football team. Following graduation, he joined the Navy for two years and then, followed in his father’s footsteps by working in a local power plant. His dream of attending Notre Dame never wavered and, at a low point in his life, determined that he had to pursue that dream. Without student loans or being accepted at any college, he left the security of home and job using his savings to travel from Joliet, IL to South Bend, IN. There, he pleaded with a Notre Dame priest to attend the school; however, he was referred to Holy Cross College in order to pull up his grades in order to gain acceptance to Notre Dame.
Holy Cross was a pivotal experience for Rudy since it was there he met D-Bob, a teaching assistant who while tutoring him eventually had Rudy tested. It was discoved that he had dislexia and help, his grades began to improve. He lived an impoverished life style sleeping and showering wherever he could find a place. On his fourth try, he was finally admitted to Notre Dame. During a walkon tryout for the football team, he was accepted, against all odds, as a member of the scout team that routinely played against the starting team.
He like many of the young people of those days never minded the hard work it took to succeed. He did it without cheating, without whining, and without much assistance. He had honor, consistency, and focus and the results speak for themselves. He was the second player and, so far, the last to be carried off the field by his fellow teammates. As an adult, he has established the Rudy Foundation. 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.** He brings all the qualities that impelled him to be his best to others now.
In this day, when cheating in college is common and seemingly many of these young adults have the ethics of alley cats, it might behoove us to remember the days when we were a nation of givers. Those were the days when President Kennedy extolled the nation to ask not what our country could do for us, but what we could do for our country. It was a time when we all wanted to become our best selves and bring our fellow man with us. Paying it forward wasn’t a term rather it was an action. It’s easy to recognize that not all the young people today fit the mold presented by the press and I could site many who don’t. However, the general trends show that we now seek what is best for ourselves all the while looking to our government for sustenance and support especially in bad times. Literally, we fiscally can’t afford such attitudes.
**Obtained from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daniel_Ruettiger#cite_note-8