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Famous Notre Dame football walk-on ‘Rudy’ joins LDS Church

SHARE Famous Notre Dame football walk-on ‘Rudy’ joins LDS Church

Rudy, the former University of Notre Dame football walk-on whose story became a feature film, is now a Mormon, with word of his conversion taking to social media over the weekend.

Daniel E. "Rudy" Ruettiger was baptized a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on Saturday, Jan. 21, by Highland resident Randy "Rudy" Garn, as acknowledged Monday by James Clarke, a friend of Ruettiger who was also present at the service.

"It's a fantastic story of friendship. He was loved into the church," said Clarke, one of the speakers at the service. "I was honored to witness such a remarkable conversion process and series of events to get Rudy there."

Ruettiger, now 68, lives in Las Vegas. He became famous when his early life and experience as a walk-on football player at Notre Dame was made into a movie, "Rudy," in 1993. Since then he has made a career as a motivational speaker.

Ruettiger's interest in the LDS Church was primarily fostered by Garn's friendship. The two men met in October 2005 at the University of Southern California-Notre Dame game, also known as the "Bush Push" in which USC won in the game's final seconds. In the years that followed, their friendship deepened, Garn said.

A turning point came in 2013, when Garn, Clarke and a small group of friends invited Ruettiger to attend a cold, late November game between Brigham Young University and Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana. The group flew to the game and watched the action from the BYU sideline.

During the game, Ruettiger interacted with some of BYU's players and felt a connection. On the flight home, he began to ask questions about the LDS Church, Clarke said.

News and photos of Ruettiger's baptism were shared on social media networks over the weekend, and many people thought it was a joke, Clarke said.

"Many people have wondered if this is another 'Steve Martin Mormon myth' story, but it's true, Rudy was baptized," Clarke said.