In collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com
It is an inspirational moment that would one day become a Hollywood story, Daniel Ruettiger known affectionally as “Rudy” gets into a game and records a sack as the Irish beat Georgia Tech 24-3 in South Bend. Rudy worked had to get into Norte Dame, and spent two years on the scout team, where his spirit and effort endeared him to the entire football program. After the sack, Rudy Ruettiger was carried off on the shoulders of his teammates the first player to receive that honor at Notre Dame.
Daniel Ruettiger was born into a large German-Catholic family in Joliet, Illinois on August 22, 1948. The third of 14 children, Ruettiger was a fan of Notre Dame like the rest of his large family. He dreamed of playing for the Irish but was undersized and a below-average student. After graduating from high school, Rudy served two years in the Navy.
After serving in the Navy, Daniel Ruettiger went to work at a powerplant, following in the blue-collar life of his father. When a close friend died, Rudy decided to follow his dream and attend Notre Dame. Moving to South Bend, Ruettiger was not accepted into Notre Dame but was advised he could be accepted if he turned his grades around at Holy Cross Community College located near the Notre Dame campus.
At Holy Cross, Rudy Ruettiger discovered he had a learning disability. Taking steps to overcome his dyslexia, Ruettiger was able to complete his two-year degree and was into Notre Dame in 1974. After getting into Notre Dame, Ruettiger tried out for the football team. At 5’6”, Rudy would never make team, as an active player, but as a member of the scout team, he could help the Irish prepare for their games.
On the scout team, Rudy Ruettiger was beaten up on a regular basis, but his heart, determination, and effort won over the coaches at Notre Dame, especially Ara Parseghian. After Parseghian retired, Dan Devine who left the Green Bay Packers, became the new coach at Notre Dame. As the Irish sitting at 6-2 prepared for their final home game, players made a move to get Devine to allow Rudy to dress and sit on the sideline on Senior Day.
Notre Dame had their best game of the season, as they dominated the game and led 24-3 in the final seconds as Georgia Tech got the ball, allowing Rudy Ruettiger to get on to the field. On the final play of the game, Rudy sacked Georgia Tech quarterback Rudy Allen. The story would be turned into a movie in 1993, becoming one of the most beloved sports films.