Daniel E. “Rudy” Ruettiger, the former University of Notre Dame football walk-on whose story became a feature film, spoke to an online audience about his life story and faith Sunday.
The event, titled, “Why I Believe with Rudy Ruettiger,” was streamed on the “My Road to Hope and Peace” Facebook page and hosted by President James Evanson and his wife, Sister Jody Evanson, who preside over the Utah Orem Mission of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Ruettiger became famous when his early life and experience as an undersized walk-on football player at Notre Dame was made into a movie, “Rudy,” in 1993. Since then Ruettiger has made a career as a motivational speaker. He was baptized into the Latter-day Saint faith in 2017.
Sporting a USA hat and wearing a Duke University shirt, Ruettiger elaborated on his story, the making of the movie, “Rudy,” quoted Bible verses and answered questions for about 45 minutes. He encouraged his audience to not be afraid to follow your dream, believe in yourself, avoid the naysayers and be true to your faith.
“You must always believe in you — that’s the gift the Lord has given you,” he said. “If you don’t believe in yourself, it probably won’t happen because you are going to have doubt your whole life. You got to get rid of doubt and goofy-thinking people. Get rid of all the people who tell you what you can be, and what you can’t be. Go where you want to be, that’s the secret.”
- On being true to your faith: “People just don’t want to believe sometimes. That’s why we got to walk out there and be warriors of Jesus Christ, to let them know we are believers, and by that we are servants of Jesus Christ. When we do that, great things happen, and that’s when you get hope.”
- On miracles and angels: “You see miracles every day. ... The fact that I got to Notre Dame is a miracle. So how does that happen? People help you get there. People help you understand why you should be here. ... The miracle is that you believe in people that want to help you. That’s the miracle and you see real angels in your life that can help you get there. ... So keep sticking to the people who believe in what you’re doing.”
- On mentors: “You need mentors in your life. Sometimes you got to go to the people who don’t know you. People who know you will give you doubt because they know you. They know your bad habits. They know what you can’t do. But the people who don’t know you who believe, it goes back to faith again, when they see a good heart, they will empower that, and that’s again when miracles happen. ... You just can’t do it yourself, it’s impossible. You need help. ... God works through people.”
- On being carried off the field by his teammates: “That was an embarrassing moment for me because no one has ever been carried off that field. Why are they carrying me off? “Put me down,” I yelled. They said, “No, no, we’re taking you all the way to the tunnel.” Those guys believed in me. Those are guys who were inspired by my work ethic. ... You don’t know who you’re touching by your work ethic and by your beliefs and by your faith. ... You don’t have to go and preach. Just do the work. Go to work. Do the work. Do your job. People see that you are set back, but you get back up.”
- On letting people “discover” his story: “‘Rudy’ the movie was a discovery moment for a lot of people of faith. It wasn’t faith pushed in your face. It was just a discovery. Don’t tell people why they should this, let them discover why they should do it.”
- On the inspiration to make his story into a movie: “I never planned it, but God has a way of planting seeds through other people. After the football game, I’m sitting in the locker room, taking my jersey off, no name on the jersey. I’m the only guy with no name, but everybody chanted my name. Why was that? Because I had a lot of relationships in that stadium with the students and they were excited about the fact that I got the dress and got in the game. So they start chanting “Rudy,” and because they start chanting “Rudy,” other people start chanting “Rudy,” and that went through the whole stadium. A lot of people chanted and they didn’t know why. A sportswriter came up, “Who are you and why are they chanting ‘Rudy’? ... This never happens at Notre Dame, what I just witnessed. It only happens in Hollywood.” That’s the seed that was planted by a sportswriter, not knowing it was going to be a major motion picture. I didn’t know either. ... I kind of thought about it years later after I saw another inspirational sports movie called ‘Rocky.’”
Watch Ruettiger’s entire presentation on Facebook.