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Rudy Ruettiger

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Rudy Ruettiger
Ruettiger signing autographs in 2009
Notre Dame Fighting Irish – No. 45
PositionDefensive end
Personal information
Born: (1948-08-23) August 23, 1948 (age 75)
Joliet, Illinois, U.S.
Height5 ft 6 in (1.68 m)
Weight165 lb (75 kg)
Career history
Bowl games
High schoolJoliet Catholic

Daniel Eugene Ruettiger (born August 23, 1948), is an American motivational speaker and author who played college football for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. His early life and career at Notre Dame were the inspiration for the 1993 film Rudy.


Early life and family[edit]

Daniel Eugene Ruettiger (nicknamed "Rudy") was born on August 23, 1948, in Joliet, Illinois. He was the third of 14 children and grew up with his German American family. Ruettiger did not excel scholastically, at least in part due to dyslexia. He attended Joliet Catholic High School and played for locally famous football 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. Ruettiger applied to Notre Dame and was rejected due to his low high school grades. He enrolled and attended nearby Holy Cross College, and after two years 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 5 ft 6 in (1.68 m) and 165 lb (75 kg).[1] Head coach Ara Parseghian encouraged walk-on players from the student body.[2] For example, Notre Dame's 1969 starting center, Mike Oriard, was a walk-on who was eventually nominated for a Rhodes Scholarship and earned an NFL contract with the Kansas City Chiefs.[3][4]

After tremendous financial help from his father, Ruettiger earned a place on the Notre Dame scout team, a squad that helps the varsity team practice for games. Merv Johnson was the coach who was instrumental in keeping Ruettiger on as a scout-team player.[5]

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 Ruettiger to dress for his last game. In the real life scenario, however, it was Devine who came up with the idea to dress Ruettiger. In the final play of Ruettiger's senior season with the Fighting Irish, he recorded a sack,[6] which is all his Notre Dame stat line has shown. Ruettiger actually played for three plays: a kickoff, an incomplete pass, and on the third play (the game's final play), he sacked Georgia Tech quarterback Rudy Allen.[6][7] Ruettiger was carried off the field by his teammates following the game, the first player in Notre Dame history to be honored in this way. Only one other player has received this recognition: Marc Edwards in 1995.[8][9]

Feature film[edit]

Ruettiger set up a successful maintenance company and also sold real estate. In 1986, he moved back to South Bend, Indiana, and decided to sell his story to be made into a film.[10] Ruettiger's story was told in the 1993 feature film Rudy, which starred actor Sean Astin in the title role. The film was written by Angelo Pizzo and directed by David Anspaugh, both of whom were involved in Hoosiers. Ruettiger appeared in a cameo as a fan behind his father, played by Ned Beatty, during the final game scenes.[11]

Ruettiger has said that the movie is "92% true."[12] The players did not lay down their jerseys; rather, the team captain and one other player requested that he be allowed to play.[1] Dan Devine is given a somewhat antagonistic role in the film, but Devine was actually one of Ruettiger's biggest motivators to return to the team. The groundskeeper named Fortune is a combination of three different people.[13]

Later life[edit]

Ruettiger is a motivational speaker[14] and author.

In 2011, Ruettiger was charged with securities fraud in connection with his role as Chairman of Rudy Beverage, Inc. The government alleged a pump-and-dump scheme. A settlement of the case required Ruettiger to pay $382,866 in fines.[15] In his 2011 book, Rudy: My Story, Ruettiger writes of his dealings with the Securities and Exchange Commission and settlement for alleged securities fraud, stating, "I fell into the same obvious trap the rest of the country had fallen into in all of those boom years" and "I shouldn't have been chasing the money."[16]

In 2017, at the age of 68, Ruettiger was baptized a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Highland, Utah.[17]

Honors, recognition, and awards[edit]

On October 14, 2005, Ruettiger appeared at a pep rally before the 2005 USC vs. Notre Dame football game, which Notre Dame ultimately lost in the last few seconds.

The inaugural 2007 College Football Rudy Award was held on January 8, 2008, at the Opryland Hotel in Nashville, Tennessee.[18] 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 Cs": character, courage, contribution, and commitment as a member of their team.[19] A similar award for high school students was created in 2009. Trusted Sports and Ruettiger launched the High School Football "Rudy" Awards, which aim to uncover the "Rudy" on every high school football team in America. 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 totaling $10,000. Two runners-up, Kyle Weafer of Kansas and Justin Ray Duke of Texas each received $5,000 scholarships.

In July 2009, Ruettiger was initiated into the Kappa Sigma fraternity at the Grand Conclave in San Antonio, Texas.[20]

Ruettiger received honorary doctoral degrees from Holy Cross College,[21] Mercy University,[22][23] and Long Island University.[24][25] He has been given key to the city at numerous cities across the nation along with special proclamations for his inspiration, commitment, and human spirit; one such proclamation from the Governor of Nevada announced an Official Rudy Award Day.[citation needed]


  • Rudy's Insights for Winning in Life ISBN 978-0-9658119-1-0
  • Rudy's Lessons for Young Champions ISBN 978-0-9658119-0-3
  • Rudy & Friends ISBN 978-1-880692-39-4
  • Rudy: My Story ISBN 978-0-718080-06-8


  1. ^ a b "True Story". Rudyint.com. Daniel Ruettiger. Archived from the original on November 27, 2010. Retrieved April 19, 2012.
  2. ^ Pagna, Tom (1976). Notre Dame's Era of Ara. Diamond Communications, Inc. pp. 182–183. ISBN 0-912083-74-3.
  3. ^ "It's Not All Fun and Games: college athletics". Notre Dame Magazine. University of Notre Dame. Summer 2002. Archived from the original on December 14, 2007. Retrieved April 19, 2012.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  4. ^ Ryan, Jack (Spring–Summer 2009). "Book Review: Michael Oriard. The End of Autumn: Reflections on My Life in Football" (PDF). Aethlon. XXV12. Archived from the original (PDF) on June 12, 2015. Retrieved December 28, 2019.
  5. ^ "Forde: Been there, done that". ESPN.com. November 3, 2004. Retrieved May 14, 2020.
  6. ^ a b Video of final three plays on YouTube (August 26, 2006). Retrieved on 2012-04-19.
  7. ^ Daniel 'Rudy' Ruettiger recording the final sack for Notre Dame against Georgia Tech on November 8th, 1975 on YouTube
  8. ^ "Rudy". Chasing the Frog. February 25, 1971. Retrieved April 19, 2012 – via chasingthefrog.com.
  9. ^ Weiss, Dick (October 2, 1995). "Slighting Irish Hurts Alleged USC: Taunts Inspire Notre Dame". New York Daily News. Archived from the original on April 17, 2009.
  10. ^ Klady, Leonard (September 21, 1993). "Real-life Rudy has Midas touch offscreen, too". Daily Variety. p. 19.
  11. ^ "Rudy (1993) – Full Cast and Crew". imdb.com.
  12. ^ Ruettiger, Daniel E. Interview with Rudy. Rudy: DVD Special Features.
  13. ^ "How The Movie "Rudy" Changes The Real Life Story". gamedaynews. November 21, 2019. Retrieved May 14, 2020.
  14. ^ "'Rudy' at 25: Beloved sports film will come alive with L.A. screening and orchestra". Los Angeles Times. March 29, 2019. Retrieved February 18, 2020.
  15. ^ "Rudy Ruettiger: I Shouldn't Have Been Chasing The Money". Forbes. June 11, 2012.
  16. ^ Vardi, Nathan. "Rudy Ruettiger: I Shouldn't Have Been Chasing The Money". Forbes. Retrieved February 18, 2020.
  17. ^ Toone, Trent (January 23, 2017). "Famous Notre Dame football walk-on 'Rudy' joins LDS Church". Deseret News. Retrieved May 25, 2020.
  18. ^ "Rudy Award winner 2007". Archived from the original on October 20, 2009. Retrieved January 13, 2011.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link). rudyawards.com
  19. ^ "The Rudy Award". Archived from the original on March 5, 2009. Retrieved January 13, 2011.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link). rudyawards.com
  20. ^ "67th Grand Conclave – Kappa Zeta For Outstanding Year 2008 – 2009". Kappa Sigma. July 2009. Retrieved April 19, 2012 – via kappasigmagsu.com.
  21. ^ "Rudy returns to Notre Dame". ABC57. Retrieved February 2, 2024.
  22. ^ Football star Rudy Ruettiger is Honorary Degree Recipient, November 30, 2012, retrieved February 2, 2024
  23. ^ "Football Legend and Motivational Speaker Daniel "RUDY" Ruettiger Visits Mercy College". Rivertowns, NY Patch. September 4, 2012. Retrieved February 2, 2024.
  24. ^ LIU Honorary Degree: Rudy Ruettiger, May 19, 2020, retrieved February 2, 2024
  25. ^ "2020 Commencement Program: LIU Post | LIU Brentwood | LIU Riverhead by Long Island University - Issuu". issuu.com. May 18, 2020. Retrieved February 2, 2024.

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