Rudy Ruettiger

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Rudy Ruettiger
Daniel Rudy Ruettiger in 2009.jpg
Ruettiger signing autographs in 2010
Notre Dame – No. 45
PositionDefensive end
Career history
High schoolJoliet (IL) Catholic
Personal information
Born: (1948-08-23) August 23, 1948 (age 70)
Joliet, Illinois
Height5 ft 6 in (1.68 m)
Weight165 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 were the inspiration for the 1993 film Rudy.

Early life and college career[edit]

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 owing 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 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 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,[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 was one of two players in Notre Dame history to ever be carried off the field by his teammates. The other is Marc Edwards in 1995.[6][7]

Life post Notre Dame[edit]

The inaugural 2007 College Football Rudy Award was held on January 8, 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 Cs": 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 (though that loss was later vacated due to misconduct by USC).

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 Ruettiger launched the High School Football "Rudy" Awards, which aim 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 Ruettiger calls the "Four Cs": 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 totaling $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. 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 scene.[12]

SEC investigation[edit]

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.[13]


  • 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


Movie accuracy[edit]

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


  1. ^ Ruettiger's stats on his official website. Retrieved on April 19, 2012.
  2. ^ "It's Not All Fun and Games: college athletics, Notre Dame Magazine Online, summer 2002". Archived from the original on December 14, 2007. Retrieved April 19, 2012.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  3. ^ [1]
  4. ^ a b c d Video of final three plays on YouTube (August 26, 2006). Retrieved on 2012-04-19.
  5. ^ Daniel "Rudy" Ruettiger recording the final sack for Notre Dame against Georgia Tech on November 8th, 1975 on YouTube
  6. ^ Rudy Chasing the Frog. (February 25, 1971). Retrieved on 2012-04-19.
  7. ^ Dick Weiss, SLIGHTING IRISH HURTS ALLEGED USC TAUNTS INSPIRE NOTRE DAME Archived April 17, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ "Rudy Award winner 2007". Archived from the original on October 20, 2009. Retrieved January 13, 2011.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link).
  9. ^ "The Rudy Award". Archived from the original on March 5, 2009. Retrieved January 13, 2011.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link).
  10. ^ "One for the ages: USC edges Notre Dame: Leinart pulls trickery with 3 seconds left, Bush scores 3 TDs in 34–31 win"; MSNBC. Retrieved on April 19, 2012.
  11. ^ 67th Grand Conclave – Kappa Zeta For Outstanding Year 2008 – 2009. Retrieved on April 19, 2012.
  12. ^ "Rudy (1993) – Full Cast and Crew";
  13. ^ "Rudy Ruettiger: I Shouldn't Have Been Chasing The Money" Forbes Magazine, 6/11/2012


  • 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.

Interview with Rudy for the DVD release can be found on the DVD Special Features, and on YouTube snippets of the film where he discusses the accuracy of the film to the real story.

External links[edit]