Episode 130: Daniel 'Rudy' Ruettiger's Motivational Journey
Daniel 'Rudy' Ruettiger
On this episode, Karen speaks with Daniel “Rudy” Reuttiger; 'Rudy' is an American motivational speaker and author who played college football at the University of Notre Dame and is the real-life inspiration for the iconic 1993 film RUDY. Rudy is here to share the story behind the film as well as his life journey since Rudy was released.
Daniel 'Rudy' Ruettiger Bio
The epic story of Daniel "Rudy" Ruettiger will forever be known as one of the greatest moments in sports history. The on-field moment lasted for twenty-seven seconds, but his legacy is complete as one of the most famous graduates of the historic University of Notre Dame.
The son of an oil refinery worker and third of fourteen children, Rudy Ruettiger chose resiliency and strength over discouragement and despair. Armed with a fierce determination, Rudy was able to achieve a lifelong dream - to attend Notre Dame University and play football for the Fighting Irish. As fans cheered RU-DY, RU-DY, RU-DY, he sacked the quarterback in the twenty-seven seconds of the only play of his college football career! The stadium was electrified, and he was carried off the field on the shoulders of his teammates.
In 1993, TRISTAR Productions immortalized his life story with the blockbuster film, RUDY. Written and produced by Angelo Pizzo and David Anspaugh, the award-winning team who brought us HOOSIERS, the critically acclaimed RUDY received "Two Thumbs Up" from Siskel and Ebert. It is commonly known as one of the all-time great sport films.
Today, he is consistently one of the most popular motivational speakers entertaining corporate audiences around the world with a unique, passionate and heartfelt style of communicating. He reaches school children, university students, and professional athletes with the same enthusiasm, embodying the human spirit that comes from his personal experiences of adversity and triumph. Rudy frequently shares the speaking platform with great leaders and speakers including President George Bush, First Lady Barbara Bush, Peter Lowe, Joe Montana, General Colin Powell, Christopher Reeve, and Zig Ziglar. From introduction to conclusion, he receives thunderous applause and ovations from emotional audiences as they chant RU-DY, RU-DY, RU-DY.
In addition to speaking, Rudy Ruettiger has co-authored several books, including: RUDY'S INSIGHTS FOR WINNING IN LIFE, RUDY'S LESSONS FOR YOUNG CHAMPIONS, and RUDY & FRIENDS, and has produced the DREAM POWER tape series. He has appeared in numerous media outlets such as People Magazine, Sports Illustrated, US Magazine, Readers Digest, Inside Sports, The 700 Club, NFL Films, CBS Goodmorning, ABC Good Morning America, NBC Talk Live, Regis and Kathy Lee, Montel Williams Show, and Entertainment Tonight.
Rudy is the founder of the Rudy Foundation, an organization tasked with the goal of assisting children of all ages to maximum their full potential. The Rudy Foundation develops and supports programs that cognitively, emotionally, physically and spiritually impacts the lives of children. The Foundation's award program, The Rudy Award Program, recognizes children who make an outstanding effort to reach their personal best in everyday situations. It emphasizes character, courage, contribution and commitment.
Rudy Ruettiger has privileged to receive the following honors:
-Honorary Doctorate Degree from Our Lady of Holy Cross College
-The key to numerous cities across the nation along with special proclamations for his inspiration, commitment, and human spirit.
-Honorary assist to the Attorney General of Louisiana
-Distinguished American Award
-Recognition from George W. Bush
-Recognition from the House of Representatives in the state of Texas
-Recognition at the White House
-A Proclamation from the Governor of Nevada granting an Official Rudy Award Day
-Inducted into the Speakers Hall of Fame
Intro Voices 00:04
Where do I go? The only happened once. I think I was singled out. The phone calls began about one month ago. What is hazing? Something happened to me when I was a young girl. I'm worried about my safety. He said he was sorry, can someone help me? Where can I go? Can someone help me?
Karen Ortman 00:30
This is you matter, a podcast for the NYU community developed by the Department of campus safety. Hi, everyone, and welcome back to you matter, a podcast created to teach, inspire and motivate members of the NYU community who have been victimized in some form or fashion, and to identify resources both on and off campus that can help. I'm your host Karen Ortman, Associate Vice President of campus safety operations at the Department of campus safety, and a retired law enforcement professional. Today, I welcome Daniel Rudy Ruettiger. Rudy is an American motivational speaker and author who played college football at the University of Notre Dame, and is the real life inspiration for the iconic 1993 film Rudy. Rudy is here to share the story behind the film, as well as his life journey since Rudy was made. Rudy, welcome to you matter
Daniel 'Rudy' Ruettiger 01:29
About that. To me, it's amazing that I get to do this. And you know, strictly blue collar from high school, marry, ambition to go to Notre Dame, but dream to go to Notre Dame. But you know, when you go work, blue collar, you say, Wow, this is it. And I had a good union job. So my point I'm very, very happy to be here. After going through that dark side of my life to the break,
Karen Ortman 01:57
Very happy to have you here. And I have to tell you, I don't think I've met a single person who doesn't know the film, Rudy, who hasn't seen it. And who does not think that it's so cool that I'm talking to you today.
Daniel 'Rudy' Ruettiger 02:15
Well, that's cool that you know, it's funny, I was interested in you say that I'm always surprised by the people that I meet. The movie has won inspire them to move towards their goals for an exam getting a haircut the other day, and some new barber could find barber shop. And he kept asking me why it looked familiar. So I'm not sure why I look familiar. He says, but your first name is Rudy, What's your last name? I said, Rudy Garcia. Oh, my God. Your movie got me through college. So you get those Oh, wow. Little moment you say wow, I glad I did that movie. Right.
Karen Ortman 02:56
Let's go back and talk about your childhood. You grew up in the outskirts of Chicago. Tell me about that.
Daniel 'Rudy' Ruettiger 03:06
Well, Chicago Joliet was a blue collar town. We grew up one of 14 children. My dad worked three jobs. Mother was she was the inspiration actually. She kept everybody in line for positive thinking. She never finished high school. She married my dad after the Air Force. My dad was a world war two veteran was on the B 17 bombers, 22 missions. So he's a true hero. I'm a Navy veteran. So being a veteran, I know what my dad went through. And I know what I had to go through as a veteran in the Navy. So all these things that when I grew up as a blue collar, child, and that's what we were very proud of that fact, haven't chores. School was not my best asset. Let's put it that way. I didn't like school, not because it was fun meeting your friends. Or once you got classroom. It was about academics. And I was about dreamers. So there was a conflict of interest. You got to go home and do homework. And I didn't like Oh, Martin, baseball got it. Because they had a learning disorder called dyslexia, which I didn't know I had. So you know, inverted your attention to something you like. My whole point is when I learned later on then sociation was very important for me to learn. sociation made me learn things that I should learn that I didn't want to learn that I could learn through an association of things I liked. Wow. When it turned my education around, but I wasn't taught that in school. So I was not a good student. But I was a good brother. That makes sense. We all had our different chores. We had our moments fighting over things that are stupid, I guess.
Karen Ortman 04:56
We're there. 14 Boys,
Daniel 'Rudy' Ruettiger 04:58
Seven sisters, six Brothers. So the sisters, when again, when you grew up with girls and guys and a family, you got to learn how to live with each other and communicate and collaborate. Do your chores because we all had chores. But seeing that, I think that kind of gave me a thing called gratitude as I grew up, because we didn't have much, but we did have a lot of love. My dad made sure there was a roof over our head and made sure we went to the Catholic schools made sure we had the necessary means wouldn't have the best cars. He built a home that he built from scratch and remember moving into the home with no windows or doors. We had to wait for that. But yeah, he finished it in he pieced mail. The whole deal, but he showed me that he had a dream goal. And he finished it no matter what it taught me a lot. And he worked three jobs. And he's a veteran and he's a good father. Good man. He never missed a little league game. Think about that. Wow. He also coached literally my mother was the president of the mother's club. Very busy, but yet very involved with the children.
Karen Ortman 06:22
Did you grew up watching Notre Dame football?
Daniel 'Rudy' Ruettiger 06:26
You go to church, listening to the priests give the Notre Dame score. And you This is how crazy it was kind of goofy. But you thought Man, if I can go to Notre Dame, I can go to heaven. That's what I believe for the longest time in that was because it's how they projected Notre Dame t like was a special place holy place. Or anybody goes there. They're gonna have it. I you know, you grow up with those thoughts. Yeah. And that's what I saw my dad's eyes light up in church when Notre Dame won. So why wouldn't that be a great gift to give him but that was unrealistic at that time, at that time, because I was not a good student. I was not a candidate for sports or athletics or academics. I mean, it was. It was like, shooting for the stars. There's some far away traveled far to get that frame. Yeah, my dream. When I dropped it was close. Close, but so far away. That makes sense.
Karen Ortman 07:27
You said that you were not a huge fan of school.
Daniel 'Rudy' Ruettiger 07:32
Once I learned how to that became a very, I called brilliant student.
Karen Ortman 07:38
When were you actually diagnosed with dyslexia? I
Daniel 'Rudy' Ruettiger 07:42
was actually in the Navy. They picked up on it. You take the certain tests when you get a navy. Put your skills somewhere. Yeah.
Karen Ortman 07:50
So you were not diagnosed as a even a high school student?
Daniel 'Rudy' Ruettiger 07:55
No, no, no, they just called your stupid. Okay. I'm coach. trainable, really and good to know where he's slow.
Karen Ortman 08:04
Was it hard for you? Was it hard for you? Oh, it's painful. Not
Daniel 'Rudy' Ruettiger 08:07
hard, painful? Yeah. It's very painful, lonely feeling it's, it's, it's almost like you don't belong? Yeah.
Karen Ortman 08:14
Did you play any sports in high school?
Daniel 'Rudy' Ruettiger 08:17
baseball and football? My coach, the football coach would always empower me with good thoughts. Sports involve me. So that kept me kind of
Karen Ortman 08:28
positive. And then academics excluded you.
Daniel 'Rudy' Ruettiger 08:31
excluded, excluded me. That's why when I graduate, nor am I look back, as you know, wasn't for the Navy, I wouldn't be here. If it wasn't for the friends I chose to be around. I wouldn't be here. Because they didn't look at you as a dummy. They looked at you. How can we help you? Yeah. After high school, God wasn't even in the game. Because even taking a test like the LSAT a CTS forget that you're not going to college, you'll get a blue collar job, which is very honorable, because, hey, it's a good job. It's a union job, you're gonna get benefits. And during that time, after I graduated from high school, I realized that's not what I want to be. This is not what I want to do. What did you want to do? Go to Notre Dame, but it's an impossible feeling. But I had that urge. I got to gotta know, how am I going to do this? It just haunted me. That's what I wanted. I wanted to be better than what I was wanting to go out and prove to myself, I'm no dummy. I could do this. But how do you do that?
Karen Ortman 09:44
So what steps did you take?
Daniel 'Rudy' Ruettiger 09:47
Well, it was during Vietnam. Everyone was getting drafted, I had to make a choice. So I went down to the Navy recruiter, and that's a choice I made to get go into the Navy and actually It kind of saved my whole attitude. Because when I went to the Navy, they simplify things. Bootcamp, they eliminate all your past your clothes, you get a new haircut, you get all new issue of everything. And when I was growing up, I never had anything new. I was always chasing my brother for the underwear he stole from me, or the shoes and things like that. But when you get your own issue, now you have gratitude. You have your own underwear, your own shoes and socks, with your name stamped on it. And man, that was a big deal. I add gratitude in because when I would bring my report card home from school, my dad gave me chores with my mother, I had to help her fold clothes, that made everything. So you learn how to fold clothes. And you learn how to make a bed. You have to keep your room clean. And guess what, when you're going to military, guess what the first thing you need to do? Fold your cloth. I was good at it. And I knew how to make a bed. And I got better at it. And I became the leader in boot camp. And that gave me confidence. That's a big deal. Now, Thompson it says her getting confidence in me. And when I got the guy start dreaming again. I said maybe this is possible at Sony a thought. Yeah. Because no, I'm a leader, a leader in bootcamp in school, I was no leader. And now I'm a leader in the United States Navy. And I started to learn better, I started asking a lot questions about what I want to do that I got a skill, what they call Yeoman, which ilmenite was in the maintenance department, Yeoman, because that worked in the maintenance, and my former job before the Navy. And that's what I come out of, but I had to collect data. For that means departments up to everyone at a commission, we would have the data, how long it took and what it took to get it back. So and I was good at that. Confidence. I said, You know what, I'm getting better. I start taking some you Safi courses in the Navy. So what year is this? 1969. Okay. It says during the crisis of Nixon was just now starting to eliminate or cut back on Vietnam war that happened to be my second year, I'm in the Mediterranean. And if he had 24 months over in the military, you can go home. Or you want an honorable discharge, that was a big deal. Because that eliminate two more years of the military, which allowed me to go home with a honorable degree with all the benefits. So it was, and I got to see the world during that time. And I now I come back, but I have to go back to work. better job. Now when you're in union, you do get promotions, whether you're on a job or not, if you go into military came back last year. This is 19 in the 1970. Okay. But what I realized was not only do I get a promotion, I got a responsible job, holy, I could do that job. So that gave me confidence. I was an equipment operator, pump room operator, and you better know what you're doing or the place could blow up. Yeah, so I had to learn all that responsibility. I wish I could do this. But that was because of what I learned in the Navy. Ask for help. Instead of being stupid, not ask for help. Asking for Help made me learn better. So one day, my friend told me a story because he was in the Navy of why he's living in regret. Said Rudy, I know all you talk about that. Notre Dame, Notre Dame football, Notre Dame University. But you and I both know, that's an impossible goal. But yet it's possible. I said, What are you talking about? He said, everything's possible. If you let go your past and you don't live in regret. I didn't know what he meant. But
Karen Ortman 14:13
how did you feel when you heard him say that?
Daniel 'Rudy' Ruettiger 14:17
I thought about it. Then the day he told me a couple of days later, he was killed on the job in front of me. And those are the words that came to me. Do not live in regret. Go towards your dream. So that's a day I gave myself up to the heavens. And I quit my job went towards my goal was Notre Dame. I had no reason I had no game plan. But a purpose but no game plan. How are you going to do this?
Karen Ortman 14:45
Your goal was to get accepted to Notre Dame
Daniel 'Rudy' Ruettiger 14:50
football oh my god, yes. But if I can get in there academically. So how am I going to do this? Well, let's go find out how to do if you don't know how to go find out that's what You've taught in the military, you know, you can all do something, if you find out what you need to do and collaborate. This is very important. And so I go towards the goal with that thought in mind. But everybody was upset with me, because I left a good job, one, and I'm leaving a responsible job to in a future three, you have no right to go towards something that you haven't deserved, or that you have been really earned. So all these things in your thought process was, and I never thought of that just went towards the goal. And all of a sudden, I pull off the highway, and toward, I'll never forget highway 31. And it was Notre Dame on the left and a little Junior College on the right. In the switch went off. It was a very, very, very small Junior College 100 Kids and it was run by the Notre Dame, fathers and brothers. So I turned into the junior college. I said, that is my answer, maybe to Notre Dame, as I walked in and met the gentleman behind a desk, which I didn't notice as I called God wink. He was also in the Navy. And I told him, Look, I'm coming, I'm coming in from my job, I left my job because my friend was killed. And he taught me not to live in regret. I'm telling him my emotional story. I was in the Navy and as a whole if you are in the Navy, as is yeah, he's if you are shipmates, what we went over is suicide. And we kind of shared our experiences. He said, You know what, we could do this, you want to go to Notre Dame, let's not talk about your past. Yeah, we already know what you did wrong. We already know what you didn't do. Let's talk about what we can do. I said that that's a plan. So the plan to start in on full, he said what you need, I'm gonna set you up with parallel courses with the university, then you have to spend four semesters here. And you have to get B's and A's in order to transfer the minimum 3.5. And we're gonna do that. He says, We're gonna team up because I know you could do it. Because I know you're committed. And there's no dummies, that there's no dummy in a Navy said, we are achieved something. He said we could do this. I said, You really think so? He said, Absolutely. But you gotta follow my game plan. I said, Okay, I was committed to that. Now, my family back call, thought it was nuts. Because I told him, I'm going to Notre Dame, I didn't tell him about the junior college.
Karen Ortman 17:43
They thought you were going right to Notre Dame at that point.
Daniel 'Rudy' Ruettiger 17:46
So I had to explain to them, but I didn't want. I didn't want any interruption from them. Or any type of ambush or my thoughts. When I say how you gonna do that? I don't need to hear that. That's very
Karen Ortman 18:03
progressive way of thinking back then.
Daniel 'Rudy' Ruettiger 18:07
It is, I don't know, I had that. That dream was so powerful. And that feeling was so powerful. But when I walked on a campus of Notre Dame, it cleansed all the goofy thoughts I had, and cleansed all the doubt that I had. You just know. You knew you're gonna I just felt this is where I belong. This is where I should be. Now you got to fight for that feeling.
Karen Ortman 18:30
What is your parents say?
Daniel 'Rudy' Ruettiger 18:33
They were worried, to be honest. Especially my father because he said you love the damn good job. And you're making good money. You know, yet it's been 35 years here 40 years and you get to retirement. And now you're going off. You love the job, you know, that type of compensation? Yeah, in a nice fatherly way. I understand. But I gotta go do this. Sometimes you got lead the people you love and go for your goal and dream and can't explain it because they already know your habits changing and they don't see the change because they haven't been around with, you know that much to see the change other than going to work coming home and go back to work. So it was a big moment, it was probably the most that's why I think the message is so powerful of the journey of just go towards the dream. And go get your work done. If you don't know something, ask for help. And pick the right friends to be around. Yeah, important. That was so important, because that's another thing. You can get distracted very easily if you have the wrong friends. Yeah. Right.
Karen Ortman 19:46
Tell me about your experience at junior college that ultimately led to after three rejections to Notre Dame getting accepted.
Daniel 'Rudy' Ruettiger 19:59
Right every step semester I applied, not because I knew I was gonna get rejected because I committed to what, four semesters. But I applied every semester. Why? Well, I learned if they don't know who you are, how are they going to know you? So if I apply there, I know I'm going to get rejected them. And I go there to the admissions. And instead of asking him why, I'm going to ask them, what more do I need to do? So now I'm going to build that confidence with them. That was smart. What I did, yeah, so every time I got rejected, was disappointing. But at the same time, I learned what more I had to do. But the other anxiety I had, Notre Dame does not accept Junior walk ons, and sports and football. Older, like me, right? So that kind of tore me. But I stuck to the plan. I stuck to the plan. And it worked. And also, I learned that relationships do pay off. And people who know who you are, know your passion and commitment, and your achievement will help you get there. Nope, because you're in 1972. It was an all boys school up to 1972. Okay, and which meant the slots for transfer students in 1970 or be cut back. So I had worked real hard on relationships, so I wouldn't be cut out of that slot. So everybody knew who I was. And the students at Notre Dame knew who I was. Where I was, how did they know who you were? Yeah, walk campus every day. You're around them every day. And they think you're a Notre Dame student, I got a book, I go to the chow hall, because you buy a meal plan. So they all think your Notre Dame one day my friend says, Rudy, we never see you a class. I go, I say go every day. So where do you go? I said over there and I put it towards Junior College. Then they found out that they love me at that same thing. So man, you gotta get here. I said, we're gonna get you in. And so I developed a fan club. Yeah, it was on campus, if that makes sense. Yeah. So all these little relationships. This is so important. And also, I learned relationships is what get you places. They give you that second chance, and I needed a second chance. In the movie. We showed disappointment. That final letter was was awesome. Getting that final letter in your
Karen Ortman 22:40
final one, which is your first and only acceptance letter? Correct. What was your parents response when you got that acceptance letter?
Daniel 'Rudy' Ruettiger 22:49
Ah, really? That was? Yeah, I got it. Really? You know, so yeah, I gotta get back to school. Now I'm gonna get out for the football team.
Karen Ortman 23:05
So tell me about the process. You get into the school? What was your major
Daniel 'Rudy' Ruettiger 23:12
Karen Ortman 23:14
Daniel 'Rudy' Ruettiger 23:15
you would have good major for me. Because there are a lot of audio, a lot of talking.
Karen Ortman 23:21
Tell me about your experience walking on to the football team.
Daniel 'Rudy' Ruettiger 23:28
Well, that was another challenge. And it's tough. Because you got a lot of entitled athletes. I mean, entitlement they, they come as all Americans and they expect to play. But that's not the case. Then you get a lot of athletes that are very special. Great athletes, and they're there. So that makes it there. So here you are. Only way I made it got the walkout. I developed a relationship with the head coach of Notre Dame. I met him at his office at 6am in the morning, my sophomore year at the junior college and I was working the hockey camp during that summer at Notre Dame. So I get to know people better. And I knew what time to code showed up at his office. So I would meet him right before he got into his actual office.
Karen Ortman 24:25
And how did he feel about that?
Daniel 'Rudy' Ruettiger 24:28
This is what's amazing. When he's very archy just won a national championship. very preoccupied with certain things that he has to go through his junior his next year because he had some issues with some players and he just won a national champ a lot of pressure on that caught them. And as a coach Rudy ruettiger. play football for you. That's an actual for word for word. play football. was in the Navy. And he looked at me and you were in the Navy, as he Yes, sir. He said, where do you serve son? I says, in the Mediterranean, I got my training at Great Lakes, said sonar and I. He says, Yeah, so what do you want to do? I said, Well, I want to come out. Or be a junior. I want to try out for your foot. He's, uh, you come and see me when you get in. What was the connection? The Navy? Yeah, that's how I got the walk on. I walked on and you're not accepted by these guys, by the way, because they don't accept the walk ons. That's a very chilling cold feeling. Yeah. When you walk in to to get your what you call walk on passes or your your chance to try out? Let's put it that way.
Karen Ortman 25:49
But at this point, you you got accepted. Because when you talk to the coach, you have not yet been accepted.
Daniel 'Rudy' Ruettiger 25:54
No. Did not see you had to get his approval for you to come. And when I got there, I showed up as a coach or God he saw okay, go see the guy. You know, he was
Karen Ortman 26:07
he was surprised?
Daniel 'Rudy' Ruettiger 26:10
He cuz he kind of looked at me said, Okay, go for it. You know, good luck. You know, he never asked me once. If I played high school football, really. He never asked me once. How fast I went. He saw I was short how tall? I'm five, six, but he saw I had a heart and passion. And kind of like, when you read character, you could read it. It's an airy thing. You know, he knew I had that. Maybe he was looking for that for his football team. You don't know. People that could represent that. Yeah. So he I allowed to try out there were like 15 of us. And I'll tell you what is some of the guys never lasted three days. Because I'm not having part of that. Because it was like, when you see these all Americans and these I call you know, I'm talking about guys like Dave Casper cherry Deniro Tom Clark, who gave cast when the Super Bowl. Get freshmen like Joe Montana. And guys like that, who won four Super Bowls. And this is who you're with? Yeah, but you don't realize who you're with. You just look at them as regular human beings. But with talent and skill. Yeah, you're saying to yourself, I can do that. I can contribute to that. Not that you could play, but I can contribute to the
Karen Ortman 27:32
How did they look at you when they saw you walking on the field.
Daniel 'Rudy' Ruettiger 27:37
Just why are you here? Look? Are you a little too old to be here? Look,
Karen Ortman 27:43
well, how are you? How old were you then?
Daniel 'Rudy' Ruettiger 27:45
I was 25. Okay. I was 27 when I graduated.
Karen Ortman 27:49
So you walk on the field and there's no warm and fuzzy welcome for you
Daniel 'Rudy' Ruettiger 27:54
know, by no one. Yeah. Especially the equipment managers. They just give me the yeah, good luck kid. You know, last attitude. But but that's okay. It didn't bother me. Because I've been through that. Anyhow, I know that. Yeah. I've been in the military. I mean, come on. I had to earn my way there too. And I did it. These guys aren't gonna distract me or they're not going to tell me who I am. When I'm not. I know who I am. That's the confidence. So you work hard, you know, expect to play just work hard, like you're gonna play. Here's your discipline. Error like shoo, the head coach. Some of the coaches are getting confidence to players are starting to light. But the head coach leaves Notre Dame. He also made a commitment to all the seniors, if all the kids who stuck it out for years here that never played will dress for your final home game. As a head coach here at Notre Dame, you have an output but you need to come to practice and contribute to this football team.
Karen Ortman 29:02
Coach, which coach said that though?
Daniel 'Rudy' Ruettiger 29:04
There were possesion
Karen Ortman 29:05
okay, but he left your junior year
Daniel 'Rudy' Ruettiger 29:08
He left. On that went away.
Karen Ortman 29:10
Daniel 'Rudy' Ruettiger 29:11
New coach comes in. And a new rule by the NCAA comes in, which was used to be 110 kids could dress now it's only 60. That means 50 of us can't dress Yeah. So why am I going to practice? Why am I still doing this? I don't know. Why are you so committed? That's why commitment is a big deal. Yeah, see I committed to to contribute to this football team, not the play, but to contribute. When I was very honored to play with the best football team and a land that get to be around these guys every day. Not many people would love to be me do that. Right? And I became that so it became very challenging. Don't get me wrong because I had to earn my way into the football locker room, my goals were very, very simple. Get go pants, get a helmet that fits, get in a locker room that everyone dresses and be part of that football team. Those were the goals. Nothing more. I had to get accepted to training table, all the things that you feel you're part of the team. And I finally did that my senior year, I got to be in the locker room where everyone dressed, got to get the gold pants. But when you come back as a senior, and they invite you back, because the coach had some error staff like me. So they brought me back my senior year, when a new coach came in. But a new coach had an NCAA rule, only 60 guys could dress, and no one really accepted the new culture. Because they were they wanted error. So there was a conflict and a real challenge. And I didn't let that bother me It bothered some guys, but me I go to practice every day, and work hard. That became a box or two, which allowed more respect from the football team and the student body. So student body got to know me through the student government and the boxing. And I became kind of like the underdog type of guy for like a rocky to them
Karen Ortman 31:18
procedure and leaves. Dan Devine comes in,
Daniel 'Rudy' Ruettiger 31:22
he comes in from the Green Bay Packers, he has a different perspective of how he runs a team. And he couldn't really deal with walk ons, because only allowed 60 guys to dress for home. Yeah, so we had to really focus on the best of the best. So that eliminated me, your senior year. Right? Yeah, but remember, the word respect is a big deal. When you get respect from your teammates, you'll be surprised what they do to get you where you need to go.
Karen Ortman 31:51
Your senior year. Any steps forward no matter how small to knowing that you were going to shoot up for a game?
Daniel 'Rudy' Ruettiger 32:04
Remember, there was hope there hope maybe they will change their mind. Maybe they would look at me differently. So my I would go to practice every day and work hard. And I didn't focus on what the rule was focused on what I had to do touring. That's what I had to do. And that's what I'm doing. And that little hope maybe there change your mind. Oh,
Karen Ortman 32:31
did Dan Devine ever come out and tell you there's no way you're going to
Daniel 'Rudy' Ruettiger 32:36
dance? became a very advocate of mine. Did he say things like you guys need to be more like Rudy? Oh, yeah, he would. He said, Oh, my God, this guy's got more heart. And, you know, because the practice you know, some guys it's slack off. And they're trying to have intense and, and I would be very intense and working hard here are singled me out. And in the movie, we made him more of one of those coaches that didn't really care. And he did care. Yeah. Okay. But he was the heavy in the movie.
Karen Ortman 33:11
So you persisted and tell me about November 8 1975. When Notre Dame was playing Georgia to
Daniel 'Rudy' Ruettiger 33:22
well, Thursday, Thursday, of that week, my name was stolen and addressed. This is the magic again of relationships. I also had a second job at Notre Dame in order to pay for my room. I was I worked as a security guard at night. I lived in the ACC I play complications, and I got that job. I got that position by being around campus during the summer. And they would put someone in athletic Convocation Center for insurance reasons. And I got that job. So same man. When I did not this is I had a relationship with a janitor there, he had a lot of gratitude. When my name was an Annette dress list. I kind of said You know, this isn't Mort that these guys don't care. I'm not going to practice. And he kind of saw me and he knew it should be a practice. But I wasn't. So what are you going to practice for Rudy? You know, so Na, and I kind of told him, he kind of gave me his version of why should go. He said you, Rudy, what you you're doing is committed to this football team. You got to stick to that. And no matter whether you play or not, I come to Notre Dame every day. I have gratitude here. I love being here. And I don't want you not to love where you're at because you love it here. You can regret the fact that you left that football team. I said you know you're right. I'm not gonna live in regret. So My friend, he says, People quit because things are hard. I come to work every day. And I have a prosthesis. I lost my leg because of sugar, diabetes, but I come to work every day and do my work, do my job, and I see you the same, you go to school, do your job, and you got to go to school, you go to football, and yet, you're excited about being here. That's because you have granted, don't let them take that from you. Don't let them steal your joy. So but you don't understand this. Now. It's not the fact that you're gonna get a uniform, it's the fact you didn't quit that type of thing. And so you know what to do. So I went back to practice. But what I didn't know was they were gonna surprise me, the team, because the captain went in with that young man who gave up his uniform say, We want Rudy to dress, I'm gonna give him a uniform. So Devine was going to do that announcement after practice. And I was in Iran, until they saw me coming back up. It team kind of got, you know, oh, man, I'm glad you came back. Because the captain came up to me again, I don't know why they said that. But they said, I'm glad you're back. And so anyway, we portray it differently, of course. So that's when Devine made the final housekeeping announcement that we're going to make a dress change here at Notre Dame, and this is something we felt was important. And we're going to dress Rudy, the team some guy, guys got excited. Some did some good skin care, which is
Karen Ortman 36:32
fine. How did you feel hearing that?
Daniel 'Rudy' Ruettiger 36:36
First that unbelieving? Yeah, you know, I said, Wow. So here's the exciting part. You get to get your home and painted. To get your helmet that means you made a football team, because of the tradition of everybody, that dress would get their helmets painted. And you get your name on your they give you a number beginning of the year, but you don't get your name on your jersey until you dress. Wow, I get my name. They don't put my name on New Jersey, because you don't have time to put it up. So I have a jersey with no name, but I got my helmet painted.
Karen Ortman 37:13
What does that mean? You got your helmet painted. There was a tradition at Notre
Daniel 'Rudy' Ruettiger 37:17
Dame that they paint all the helmets before the game. And this gold leaf paint where they shine. They don't do that anymore. They went away that tradition. But it was a big deal.
Karen Ortman 37:30
But aren't they already weren't? Weren't they already? Gold leaf?
Daniel 'Rudy' Ruettiger 37:34
No, not then. No, they were gold. But they painted him with a gold leaf. Oh, no, they got this special paint that stays like that. But back then they didn't have it. But that was a tradition. That was huge. In the movie. Show him paint the helmets. That's that was a big deal. Yeah.
Karen Ortman 37:53
So you got your helmet painted?
Daniel 'Rudy' Ruettiger 37:55
Yeah, they're painted. Well, your accent because now you get to dress in the football locker room that we never been in. Yeah, except for cleaning it. Yeah, but not as a quote unquote, player. And that was a big moment. You didn't have a locker and you had a place here where they put your uniform and he took whatever they gave you. I was excited. And you don't really get excited until you walk out of that tunnel. That's where you feel the adrenaline. And not first, I was worried. My name's not on my jersey. I'm gonna look God that went away when you run through that tunnel didn't matter. So I was excited about that. The adrenaline changed the whole vision. And everything changed. It was more than experience that people would want the one time in a position of this feeling. It's a feeling you can't explain. It's only people can understand this feeling like a mother when she has her child. I can't explain a mother and her experience what she feels like. But as a father, you get it but not like the mother. You don't understand my feelings until you've been through that struggle in that pain. And that's the feeling I had of like getting accepted at Notre Dame. I can't explain Matt either other than a joy and gratitude. Or am I glad I did the work. But Mike glad I didn't quit my glad I made those bold moves. You know, those that
Karen Ortman 39:29
was your entire family there
Daniel 'Rudy' Ruettiger 39:32
at the game of mom and dad's brothers. So
Karen Ortman 39:35
So tell me about how you felt during the course of the game. You're standing on the sideline for a lot of it.
Daniel 'Rudy' Ruettiger 39:40
Oh my god, I have to play with my attitude. You don't get your name in Iraq War. Continue to step on that feet. Yeah. I just want it one second. Give me a second man. And that's all I need. If we're ahead. I want to play it. We're behind. I know you're not going to play me. But we're ahead and I wanted to play but I didn't say Anything that was inside me? Well, because of certain teammates, they got me on that football field. Yeah. Not the student but the student by chatting by name. But you know, the maybe a handful of players wanted me on. Maybe some players thought it was a joke didn't matter. To me it was real to them. It was real. And to the fans in the stands, it was real, because they felt something to that moment that when I walked in that field when I played because it's everybody who wanted that moment, that's what I represent.
Karen Ortman 40:33
So tell me about when you got called out onto the field to play.
Daniel 'Rudy' Ruettiger 40:40
Well, they put me on the kickoff. Then after the kickoff, you run off the field. What do you do after that? Sorry, 20 some seconds left in the game. And Ross Perot never forget get back in for me call. He was all American. He also played in the Super Bowl. My whole point is, I wanted for him. And it was only seconds left in the game and, and I knew I could get the attack. I just felt it. Because it's what I practice every day in fire. I looked up there was five seconds left. And I have to tell you, it was just kind of like automatic. It was like easy, was like that as hard as you thought that's because of preparation. But here's the thing when my teammates came out, cheering me off, I was embarrassed. So what are you doing? Drop me, man. Don't do this. Don't embarrass this what I'm supposed to do said no, man. We're taking you all the way to that tunnel. And that became an iconic moment, which I didn't realize, because I just said I gotta do my job. You don't have to carry me off. That was almost like a joke. You know? What do you you're not making fun. And this is a big moment that I didn't realize for them. Then in the locker room, here's the magic. The next magical thought you never know where your next dreams come from. Right? What do you do after you graduate? You're gonna graduate you played football. That's all over now. What do you do? I didn't ever plan. So a sports writer came up to me start talking to me said you don't want I've been covering Notre Dame football for 30 years, I have never seen a Crowd Chant someone's name that they didn't know. But I started a student body where the student body does, the rest of the stadium does. So he says, this is magical. This only happens in Hollywood. That seed was planted. I saw the movie Rocky. And that's what came alive. For me. That thought that he gave me it is a special moment. So message of hope, some message of the impossible is possible. All those messages came alive when I saw the movie Rocky. So I kept watching rocky kept developing the story in my head as I'm selling insurance kept pitching the story to my friends. But no one paid attention. You can't pitch your story to your friends and they won't understand it. But you pitched it. So you can explain how to go out to Hollywood say go out to Hollywood, start pitching it and that was that was a fiasco, too. Because where do you go? How do you pitch or how do you make a movie? I have no idea. But remember, I'm using the same model as I did the Notre Dame as I got the Notre Dame relationships, talking to people and build a master, right. And that's what I did to get the movie made. I remember the first guy I ever talked to went to body by Jake. He was in Carnegie Deli Restaurant. And I walk in there I asked my friends, I'm coming out to California. And my buddy lived out in California. He went to Notre Dame. I said let's go where that produce you're saying out so took me to Carnegie Deli. And I walk in there and as Jake Steinfeld body by Jay watched him on TV, that walk up to him. As I said, Jake Marti Rudiger on your man, you're awesome, and I kinda have an idea. So what's your idea? Like tone sets a good story? That's a good story. I said, well, thanks. And that's it. He kind of empowered me in a positive way. Yeah, God kept telling the story for eight more years, until I found a hotel manager who liked the story. Love the story. I got my final rejection from Notre Dame on a movie, saying to me We love you, Rudy, but we're not interested in doing a movie here at the university. So the answer is no, do not come back. Talk about a movie idea. Again, we have a movie Rudy, we love you, but we You did great as a lot of Rudy's here. So you're not the only story kinda. So I get it. I get it. I understand it, but you don't understand them. mindset. People need to connect to the average guy connected guy like me so they can pursue, but you can't explain that.
Karen Ortman 45:08
I had no idea that you were the push behind making the movie.
Daniel 'Rudy' Ruettiger 45:12
Remember I said relationships? Yeah. There's a hotel manager in South Bend where we had our final meeting with Notre Dame. As I walked out of the meeting, he basically said, Hey, Rudy, looks like the meeting go. Well, I said, No, didn't. He said, Hey, don't worry about that. He said, My brother's coming down. You need to talk to him. I said, why? Just talk to him figure it out. said okay. I love the good guy. Great guy respect. And so I went to lunch with his brother. He had a pizza. She was telling me your story. And then he got real passionate. He said, That's a movie. That's best. That is better than any sports movie I've ever. I said, come on. Should really says Have you ever seen a movie whose? Yes, I watch it all the time. So well, we put that together. So his brother was a connector to the movie Hoosiers. And he said, Would you go out? Will you be willing to go out and speak to the hotel? Not to the guy who wrote Rudy, and I'll set you up for that meeting. What would you be interested
Karen Ortman 46:17
to the guy who wrote Hoosiers, Hoosiers
Daniel 'Rudy' Ruettiger 46:19
Ryan Angelo pizza. So he sets up the meeting, I go into my boss, and I asked him for more time off and I get fired. Which now I don't have a job, but I'm still going out to California. I got to Santa Monica. This is a little Italian restaurant 10th in Montana. I go there. And Angelo did not show up. I sat there for three hours with a friend of mine.
Karen Ortman 46:48
How disappointing was that?
Daniel 'Rudy' Ruettiger 46:49
It was it wasn't it wasn't. Yeah, it was my friends saying to me, you got stood up. No, I didn't. Remember I sold insurance. I was used to No. I used to people not showing up. I said dude, I got this. So when it mean you got to trust me. I know. I'm gonna find him. He said how are you going to find this? Millions of people out here. Don't worry about it. You sit here and I'll be right back. I was so determined to cleanse my mind of the doubt. But the positive, I'm gonna find them. I know. I'm gonna find them. I walk I see a mail carrier, smiling and Wesson. And I thank them for his smile. He said, Where are you from? Man? No one's ever thanked me. So I'm from Indiana. So I'm from Michigan. I said, I know. I know. I know why you're happy. You could be out the snow, the rain, the sleet, the dark escapes. And we had a little sense of humor. And he liked me and I liked him. He said Why are you out here? So you don't want to hear my stories too complicated. And he's not telling me your story. I'm trying to make a movie. He sighs and he says, Oh, I hear that all the time. Sure. Well, what's your story? So I was supposed to meetings little pizza, the guy who wrote Hooters? I told him a story and he says to me, without hesitation. I love that story. That guy you're talking about I deliver his mail. He points at his house, and it was Angelo's house. And I knock on the door and Angela says who is us? And Rudy said How'd you find me said nevermind but you're late for lunch. And he said all the excuses came. He started apologizing said look Rudy, you got a good story but I hate Notre Dame. I'm not going to do another sports story. The two thoughts he had there I let go but he said I had a good story. So I said let's go to lunch. I won't talk about the movies it fair enough. We go that talked about him. Because that's what I was taught and insurance final what he needs, not what I need. So he told me all everything he's gone through why he wants a chain. I had a relationship with ankle back to South Bend for two more years. And I get a phone call from Angelo Pisa. Remember, I'm bar from the university. I can't talk about a movie. I understand a letter from like the firm. Okay, yeah, it's serious. And Angela calls me out of the blue two years. I just finished my last long, right. That's what I was doing. Grad shoveling snow. And he says yeah, Rudy, I've been commissioned to write your story and call me. I said what? He got commissioned
Karen Ortman 49:37
Daniel 'Rudy' Ruettiger 49:39
by Columbia Pictures,
Karen Ortman 49:41
Who pitched it to them?
Daniel 'Rudy' Ruettiger 49:43
That's the whole story. There was a guy in Orion Pictures. And one of the producers he got a promotion from Orion to go to Columbia. And he got a to picture deal. One of the pictures he had to do was Comic Relief movie and sports where we the president of Columbia Pictures was Frank Bryce I went to Michigan State it was a walk on at Michigan State who applied to Notre Dame got turned down. So he asked to produce a give me us sports movie, like Hoosiers. I want a sports movie in a comic relief movie. He says, and the guy said, Good, I'll get the guy some losers. And now if I didn't go out and find that mailman, the mailman, fine, Angela. They were never known about Rudy. That's how Rudy happened. When they pitched in the story to Frank praise. He commissioned Angelo right away. That's all Angelo got to do, Rudy, because he said, I, this guy I know from Notre Dame who went to Notre Dame for his father, we're supposed to go to a plane and blah, blah, blah, was a walk in varying prices. Right it I love the sound of that movie. Right it so he wrote it, but I didn't tell him about Notre Dame not wanting this. Yeah.
Karen Ortman 50:51
So how'd you work that out?
Daniel 'Rudy' Ruettiger 50:53
I don't say anything that they get the green light from the scripts. Right? there ready to go. Frank price gets fired. And the movie Rudy that was green lighted is now dead. So they call me so Rudy got good news and bad news. The bad news is our movies dead. Good news is we're gonna get it done. We're gonna fly out here. We're gonna go with a Tristar. And we're gonna talk to them and we'll get it done there. Because Rob had a relationship the producer with the guys at Tristar so we walk over to try and start getting the movie done. Now we have to go to Notre Dame again, and they don't know. Notre Dame has this attitude. Yeah, guys, I gotta go back to Notre Dame, because they don't want this movie. Yeah. So as you got 48 hours, that's how you got. I went back. And again, I go back in I walked in under priests. And I got the approval. That's the bottom line. The head priest, not the one of beats. Yeah. It's a choice.
Karen Ortman 51:50
Wow. So What year was this where it was...
Daniel 'Rudy' Ruettiger 51:54
Karen Ortman 51:54
So 92. You knew you were going to make the movie. You got the approval from Notre Dame
Daniel 'Rudy' Ruettiger 51:59
and got turned down. They had to get a movie back out of turnaround to go Greenlight it again. We did go to Notre Dame get the approval for eight hours. They approved that phrase because he knew the movie origin. He liked me. And we put it together. He said, Let's go this would be good for the university.
Karen Ortman 52:19
So the movie was made a year later.
Daniel 'Rudy' Ruettiger 52:22
Karen Ortman 52:24
I'm released in 93. Wow, what an accomplishment. You should be a motivational speaker.
Daniel 'Rudy' Ruettiger 52:32
I know about persistence and understanding.
Karen Ortman 52:36
Oh my gosh. Just removing like negative thoughts and not not absorbing what people are
Daniel 'Rudy' Ruettiger 52:44
doing and absorb what people are telling you. That's key. You got to stick to your like I said, stick to your plan. Get rid of the goofy thoughts. Pick the right friends? Not the goofy friends. Yeah. Just say that keeps you good. In fact, we even did a safety video on that story. Wood company. It's on the internet. So safety takes courage. Yeah.
Karen Ortman 53:08
You know, you inspire me, my friend.
Daniel 'Rudy' Ruettiger 53:12
Hey, we do routine concerts now. What an 80 piece orchestra. Really? Yeah, we bring the movie. And we bring in ADP circles and they score the movie in front of the people. We sell out every one. We also have a documentary out called Rudy ruettiger. The walk. So all that said, we got an Emmy for that. And so it's all good.
Karen Ortman 53:34
Yeah, it's all good. What are the inaccuracies as depicted in the movie?
Daniel 'Rudy' Ruettiger 53:40
No, there's no inaccuracies, because it's an interpretation of the journey.
Karen Ortman 53:45
Okay. That's all everything that happened in the movie happened in life.
Daniel 'Rudy' Ruettiger 53:50
Of the true. Yes. We stuck to the spirit of the truth. Now in the documentary, you see the everything unfold the military, everything in a movie. It's not a documentary. The movie has to move and inspire. Yeah, tell us. Yeah.
Karen Ortman 54:09
What is your fondest memory of Notre Dame?
Daniel 'Rudy' Ruettiger 54:12
The feeling I have when I walk on campus and cleansing of our goofy thoughts, negative thoughts, picking good friends, just being around that campus, feeling goodness and being around good people there. You're going to have your negative people that have trusted, you stick with the good. And you're awesome. Go ahead. Sorry. So the sum total of your experience is not the game on November 8. No, no, that was just 1975 it was stepping on campus feeling good and powerful that you could be anybody you want to be. That's what it gave me. And Father Jake, the president of Notre Dame that graduated with me when I he was a fellow graduate with me at Notre Dame, he's now the president of the university
Karen Ortman 55:01
What an amazing story.
Daniel 'Rudy' Ruettiger 55:03
What is it for? You can write books on it? Do movies.
Karen Ortman 55:07
Yeah. Yeah. So you spend your time as a motivational speaker.
Daniel 'Rudy' Ruettiger 55:11
Yeah, I have a company to achieve company out of Wisconsin, on we're developing charter schools as we speak. I'm all into education, changing education, kids skills. So they walk out of school with a job and want a real degree know, whether their technology, whether it's electrician, or HVAC got culinary, a nurse, we build these campuses, from K to 12. And do that.
Karen Ortman 55:41
Yeah, that's awesome. And I love your message that you live by, with respect to just, you know, simple compartmentalizing the negative putting, putting it in a space and focusing on the positive and your dreams. I think that's a secret. It resonates over time. Yeah, right. It's wonderful. Is there anything that we haven't talked about that you would like to charge me
Daniel 'Rudy' Ruettiger 56:10
a lot of inspirational things now? I help people get through. So I always get inspired by stories of people. So I always get those goosebumps for people when they achieve something they're not supposed to.
Karen Ortman 56:24
Yeah. It's amazing. It's amazing. It's the American dream, really
Daniel 'Rudy' Ruettiger 56:29
God's given you drain. There's a reason for that feeling. site for that failing. And it becomes real and different layers of life. Whether you are contributor or songwriter, an actor or producer, or like whatever you want to be athlete to that dream. That's the key contribution. Yeah.
Karen Ortman 56:52
Absolutely. Well, I want to thank you so much for joining me today. I'm so honored that you agreed to be a part of this podcast. Thank you for
Daniel 'Rudy' Ruettiger 57:04
what you have done and where you're at. NYU is a very awesome school, by the way. And I've been in New York many times. Been with the Yankees. I mean, I love New York. I love the energy and Long Island University. Mercy College, all these colleges, you meet good people. Yeah.
Karen Ortman 57:26
Absolutely. Well, thank you once again. And thank you to all of our listeners for joining us for today's episode of You matter if any information presented was triggering or disturbing. Please feel free to contact the wellness exchange at 212-443-9999 or NY US Department of campus safety and their victim services unit at 212-998-2222. Please share like and subscribe to you matter on Apple podcasts Google Play, tune in or Spotify