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Davis Journal

Real-life ‘Rudy’ uses his experience to inspire others

Apr 08, 2022 09:06AM ● By Becky Ginos

LAYTON—In 1975 Daniel “Rudy” Ruettiger took the field for Notre Dame in the final play against Georgia Tech. Ruettiger had not played in a single game during his college football career until that moment. He sacked the quarterback ending the game in victory and was carried off the field by his teammates in front of a cheering crowd. His story inspired the 1993 movie “Rudy.” 

Today Ruettiger is a motivational speaker and author who shares his message of hope and determination with others and encourages them to persevere through life’s obstacles. Ruettiger spoke to a large crowd last week at Layton High School.

“I want to inspire people to be better and to do better,” he said. “We all have skills and talents so use them.”

Everybody is a Rudy, said Ruettiger. “We all have struggles. Nobody gets a free pass. We have to move through them. If I can do it, you can do it. Your attitude has to change. You have to commit to what you believe in.”

Ruettiger compared it to the movie “Rocky.” “At first everybody takes him as a goof,” he said. “No one took him seriously. Some people took me as a joke. It's not a joke, it’s real.”

 Rocky didn’t believe he belonged there when he stepped into the ring, said Ruettiger. “It wasn’t until he got hit that the training kicked in and he remembered the purpose he was there for.”

Ruettiger said he almost quit. “I thought I didn’t belong but I’d done all the training. I’d set goals to get there and I had mentors and relationships that kept me on track. They wanted me to win. I felt like I belonged there (Notre Dame). It was a place of peace for me. So I fought for that feeling.”

Kids need empowerment today, he said. “If they do something bad that should be corrected. Don’t embrace that but embrace their dream. Don’t tell them they can’t just because it’s something you don’t want them to be.”

Ruettiger said he’s never gone back to a high school reunion. “Why would I go back to the negative? I got stood up at my high school prom. Stay away from the negative move to the positive. You don’t need to go back, go forward.”

He was in the Navy and went to Vietnam before going to Notre Dame. “The Navy was the best choice I made,” said Ruettiger. “It made me feel empowered. They broke you down to get rid of your goofy habits but then they built you back up.”

Being part of a sports team creates a brotherhood, he said. “You don’t compare yourself to each teammate, you become one. It’s not about race or religion. I was there when the shooting happened in Las Vegas. The hockey team gave us hope.”

Achievement isn’t about a big house or nice car, said Ruettiger. “It’s your legacy and what you stand for. You have to have the courage to move toward your dream. It’s simple – get up and work hard.”

Ruettiger’s story has also been made into a Broadway show called “Dream Big.” He’s also written four books. “People see it and feel it,” he said. “It took me 27 years to play for 27 seconds. It was a journey to belief in myself. Most people are not willing to pay the price. You have to adjust your attitude every day. Take a swing and if you fall get back up.” l