March Inductee: To Kill a Mockingbird‘s Atticus Finch
April Inductee: Breakfast at Tiffany‘ Holly Golightly
May Inductee: Star Wars‘ Darth Vader
June Inductee: Garden State‘s Andrew Largeman
Daniel “Rudy” Ruettiger
As Played By Sean Astin
“You’re 5 foot nothin’, 100 and nothin’, and you have barely a speck of athletic ability. And you hung in there with the best college football players in the land for two years.” – Fortune letting Rudy know what he has done is a miracle.
What does it take to follow one’s dream? Our dream is never just handed to us. No, we must work for it, no matter what it is. That’s the point. Otherwise, we’d all just dream we had an unlimited amount of money and be done with it. Too often do we attempt to fulfill our dream only to give up once there was an obstacle placed in our way. That’s where movies can come in and inspire us. There are countless characters that rise above it all to achieve greatness. One such character is Daniel “Rudy” Ruettiger: the month of July’s Hall of Fame inductee.
Rudy is a young man with one simple wish: he wants to play football for his and his father’s favorite team The Notre Dame Fighting Irish. He is a decent yet intense football player for his high school, but he struggles in school. So much so that when Rudy tries to go on a visit to Notre Dame, his teacher doesn’t let him on the bus, telling him that “college isn’t for everyone.” With that, Rudy gives up hope to ever attending Notre Dame, let alone making the team. He ends up working at the same steel mill his father and multiple brothers work at as well as looking for a small house to buy with his high school sweetheart. Rudy is completely dejected.
Rudy settles into life. He works with his best friend Pete then hits the bar afterward. It’s mundane, but it’s a living. On Rudy’s birthday, Pete has a surprise gift: a Notre Dame jacket, adding that Rudy was born to wear it. Later that day, there’s an accident in the mill and Pete tragically dies. It is here that Rudy’s dream is reborn with the resolve to accomplish it in memory of Pete. Rudy leaves everything behind: his home, his family, his job, and his girlfriend to head to South Bend, Indiana. Upon arriving in the middle of the night, Rudy has no where to stay. This is where he meets Father Cavanaugh.
Cavanaugh is impressed with Rudy’s determination, but he can’t do anything about getting Rudy into Notre Dame. However, he can get him one semester at Holy Cross (a small sister school of ND) and maybe Rudy can transfer from there. We see Rudy work hard in class (writing down everything the professors are saying), as well as in the dining common in order to make money for tuition. It’s here he meets two important people in his life: D-Bob and Fortune. D-Bob is a teaching assistant for one of Rudy’s classes who agrees to help Rudy out if Rudy can help him meet girls. It’s also here that we learn that Rudy is partially dyslectic, which is why he struggles in class. Fortune is the groundskeeper to the field that the Irish play on. Not only does he offer Rudy a job and a place to sleep, he acts as a mentor to the optimistic young man.
Life and time goes on. Rudy continues to work hard at his school work and various jobs (including still attempting to find D-Bob a girl). Unfortunately, when Rudy applies for Notre Dame, he’s denied admission. This happens over and over again. He even complains to Fortune one time, who immediately gives him the riot act about how he got another year of education under his belt. Rudy, however, still has his lofty goal in mind. He seeks out Cavanaugh’s advice, who promptly tells him he’s proud of Rudy and to just pray. Maybe it’ll work. In his last opportunity, Rudy is granted admission to Notre Dame is a very heartwarming scene.
There’s very little time to celebrate, however, as it’s time for football try-outs. Rudy gets destroyed over and over again (this will be a recurring theme). The difference between Rudy and everyone else is that he keeps getting up due to his enormous heart. He’s there and there’s no way he’s going anywhere. Being small and not overly athletic, he’s put on the practice team. Here he has to learn the Irish’s opponents plays and play against the first team. Rudy is slaughtered on every plan, which is shown in a nice montage of painful hit after painful hit.
The season ends and Rudy, after telling him what an honor it was to even be on the team, asks Coach Parseghian if he could dress just one game. It’s not just for Rudy or his father (who doesn’t believe Rudy is on the team as he can’t see him playing on television), but for those who laughed at his dream (including his older brother). He wants to prove them all wrong. Though Parseghian agrees, he soon retires and is replaced by Dan Devine, who was previously the coach for the Green Bay Packers. Unlike Parseghian, Devine doesn’t really care about Rudy or the hard work he’s put in. This is yet something else that stands in the way for Rudy.
Time goes by again. Rudy checks the dress list (the players who will be eligible to play) before every game and never finds his name on there. Rudy is more or less friendless as D-Bob has gone to Miami for graduate school and Fortune wants nothing to do with with Rudy’s whining. Rudy eventually quits. He just doesn’t see the point if all of his hard work goes unnoticed. Then Fortune gives him one of the all-time great speeches (part of which is at the very beginning of this article). If that doesn’t wake you up, I don’t know what would. Rudy returns to the delight of his teammates (many didn’t like Rudy the previous year, mind you) and to the total apathy of Devine.
The days before the final home game arrives and yet again, Rudy’s name is nowhere to be found on the dress list. Thankfully, Rudy’s teammates have taken notice to the sacrifice he’s made over the past two years and confront Devine in his office. Led by Roland, an All-American and team captain, the team individual march into Devine’s office laying down their jerseys, effectively saying that they’re willing to sit this one out if it means Rudy gets to dress. Devine finally relents. Game day is a big day, obviously. Rudy’s family shows up, D-Bob drives up from Florida, and Fortune sees his first game from the stands. Roland even allows Rudy to lead the team out onto the field.
It’s a good game and Rudy is there cheering loudly for his teammates. The game is in-hand and Devine tells the coaching staff to play the seniors…except Rudy. Roland immediately begins to beg Devine to let Rudy play one down. As this is happening, one of the players begins to chant “Rudy! Rudy! Rudy!” Slowly but surely, it catches on with the players and eventually the entire stadium joins in on the chant (including some of the coaches). Devine finally allows Rudy to go into the game and the place erupts. All the hard work has paid off: Rudy is playing for Notre Dame. On the final play of the game, he even gets into the offensive backfield and tackles the quarterback for a sack, causing the place to go absolutely nuts…and even Devine can’t help but to shake his head and smile.
What makes Rudy special? It’s simply the message that is you just believe hard enough and if you put your mind to it, anything is possible. Rudy is presented with an assortment of problems. The biggest one are the naysayers, especially his older brother Frank who was a good football player, but didn’t have the heart Rudy has. There were times where only his best friend Pete believed him. Everyone else would simply scoff. Rudy, however, doesn’t care. He just keeps moving forward until he achieves that one moment of greatness. And what a moment it is.
For being a truly inspirational character; for never giving up; for allowing us all to live a dream through him; for being the focus of a movie where it’s okay for guys to cry during…
I induct Rudy into my Hall of Fame.