Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Americana: Rudy, Once Reeling, Now a Marquee Name

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Americana: Rudy, Once Reeling, Now a Marquee Name

Article excerpt

Last fall, Dan Ruettiger was mowing grass at his South Bend, Ind., condominium complex. Fired from his sales management job, he did maintenance work to subsist.

Today, Ruettiger is a media darling who spends his days charming reporters and lining up $10,000 motivational talks.

America is a land of opportunity for "Rudy," the mailbox-sized former factory rat who battled his way onto the Notre Dame football team (and into a 1975 game) against staggering odds.

He battled eight years to get his inspirational story told by Hollywood. And though his college football career lasted only 27 seconds, he has spurred a timeless feel-good film about which critics rave. "We talk about life," he said during one of his roughly 14,000 telephone interviews Tuesday. "We talk about overcoming obstacles, how your faith, your family and friends get you over your obstacles."

Ruettiger, 45, is living proof that conviction, persistence and shameless self-promotion can take you a long way in our society.

"What's exciting is the chase of this thing, the chase of getting it done," he said. "I was always told I couldn't do this, couldn't do that."

Your first impulse is to sneer at this Rudy business. After all, he did nothing heroic for the Fighting Irish in his 27-second career. And his tale might have been more compelling had he gone on to do something with his life. Aren't we talking about another Manon Rheaume here, another lightweight novelty act?

But Rudy has a story we want to see and need to hear. Our world is often heartless and cruel, ruthlessly tilted against the disadvantaged.

When a nobody actually does make it - and then really cashes in - it gives us all hope that we can control our destiny. Perhaps the American Dream isn't a complete hoax.

"There are a million Rudys out there," he said. "I'm not the only Rudy."

Ruettiger was a poor high school student, which he attributes to dyslexia. "I had a learning disability and nobody knew about it," he said. "I was labeled as a poor student and that's the way it stayed. It made you feel really bad about yourself."

After a stint in the Navy, he traveled an unlikely road to Notre Dame and the football squad's scout team as a 5-foot-6, 160-pound blocking sled. …

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