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Ruettiger stresses values of dreams

September 27, 2012

By Stephanie Metzger

James Monroe was the fifth president of the United States, but Rudy Ruettiger was the first Notre Dame University football player to ever be carried off the field by his teammates.

A fact as trivial as the country’s fifth president commonly runs amiss in the common breadth of knowledge, but it is one detail that Ruettiger will never forget.

Ruettiger, the former Notre Dame football player, was the inspiration of the 1993 film, “Rudy.” The film tells the motivational tale of Ruettiger’s story as an undersized college hopeful who tries out for the Notre Dame football team, despite the constant obstacles he encounters. Once Ruettiger makes the team, he is forced to prove himself and does so through his positive attitude and refusal to quit.

Cleveland State welcomed Ruettiger on Sept. 20 as he spoke to students in the Main Classroom Auditorium. The former defensive end gave a motivational speech, where he discussed the importance of attitude and courage.

“Do you have the courage to keep dreaming?” Ruettiger asked the audience of Cleveland State students, faculty and fans.

Ruettiger explained that the adversity he faced started as a child in elementary school, where his teacher told him he was not smart because he could not name the fifth president of the United States. At that point, Ruettiger decided to give up on school until he realized his dream to play football for the Fighting Irish.

Ruettiger noted he was 5 feet and six inches tall at the age of 25 when he walked on the Notre Dame football team. At first, he did not have the grades to receive admission to the university, so he had to attend a community college before transferring to Notre Dame.
“No matter where you came from, no matter where you were, it can all change with one thought,” Ruettiger told the audience.

With that one thought, Ruettiger explained, one can change their own life for better or for worse. Those thoughts stem from the imagination, which Ruettiger noted is the anchor to dreaming.

“Imagination is the most powerful thing you have,” he noted.

He also said that his imagination was what inspired him to convert his story into a film.
“I call it the realization of a worthwhile dream,” he explained. “You get this idea from other inspirational movies, books you read, people you talk to, and you say to yourself, 'Why not me?'”

Even the film process featured some adversity that Ruettiger had to overcome.
He met a hotel manager who introduced him to a brother, who led Ruettiger to the creators of “Hoosiers”, a motivational sports film about the Indiana University basketball team.

At first, Ruettiger was told his story was great, but not worth its own film.
Ruettiger persevered and eventually saw his story unfold on the big screen.
“I needed another dream,” he pointed out.

Ruettiger feels the message conveyed in the film is relatable and one that should be taught to all. He relayed the same message to those in attendance with an emphasis on something he called “The Rudy Movement.”

“Be a Rudy,” he told listeners. “Change your thoughts and attitude, because life is what you make of it.”

Ruettiger said that giving motivational speeches was not something he initially planned to do, but he felt that his message must be heard.

“I think what happens is, you have a message and you have almost an obligation to deliver the message,” he explained. “You think about what should be delivered and take time to process that, and it just comes out.”

Dreams don’t stop once they are achieved and Ruettiger continues to keep dreaming. He said he does not know what his next dream will be, or when it will come to him, but for now, his only goal is to inspire those who will listen.