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The inspirational story of a man who has made a life out of defying the odds

By Tom Ward

A lot of fans of the film Rudy will be happy to hear that the man behind the 1993 movie, Daniel “Rudy” Ruettiger, has delivered the ultimate companion piece to his classic film.

In his new autobiography, appropriately titled Rudy: My Story, Rudy Ruettiger chronicles his life in an impressive timeline, starting from his days growing up in Joliet, Illinois a Chicago suburb all the way to his time at Notre Dame to current day profession as a motivational speaker.

Rudy doesn’t pull any punches about his life, giving the reader his in-depth thought process about some of the decisions he made along the way that ultimately shaped his destiny. What I enjoyed about the book, and I believe many other people will, too, is how Rudy fills in the gaps between fact and fiction.

There is some wonderful behind-the-scenes information that fans will surely enjoy. I’ve always hesitated to call Rudy a sports film because I think the movie embodied so much more than him playing football at Notre Dame. This book reveals the true character of the real man and we learn through his journey how he dealt with the physical and psychological blows that came his way. It’s an easy read and fascinating introspection about the twists and turns his life has taken.

What stands out

There are many poignant moments in the book, and one that stood out was how his life came full circle when he was visiting the White House to show the film to Bill and Hillary Clinton and guests.

I won’t reveal what happened in the book, but let’s say Rudy had a defining moment when he walked past a portrait of one of the former Presidents. There was an instantaneous flashback to his grade school days and recollection of a teacher that will tug at your heartstrings when you come to this excerpt in his autobiography.

Rudy’s prowess as a boxer on the Notre Dame campus during the Friday night Bengal Bouts is the first place many students got to know the name “Rudy” prior to him making that historic tackle. When reading this book you’ll learn the significance of the movie Rocky, which came out the year he graduated from Notre Dame, and how that particular film had a huge impact in moving forward with his idea about his life story being made into a major motion picture.

The book delves into his years in the Navy after graduating from high school. Small incidents during his time in the military became important components in how he started re-shaping his life.

Rudy talks about how in boot camp a drill sergeant impressed by how he kept his locker in order and clothes impeccably folded asked him to show the others how to do that. As Rudy described this “Whoa” moment was big to him.

“That’s not the kind of thing someone usually says to the dumbest kid in the class,” Rudy said. It dawned on him that this one confidence-boosting statement in front of his shipmates instantly turned him into a bit of a leader. Rudy was able to take seemingly insignificant moments like this throughout his lifetime that helped to jumpstart his life toward a path of believing in himself.

Rudy’s book is a terrific blueprint not on how to have your life story made into a movie. Instead, it’s about perseverance and overcoming adversity and not allowing yourself to be victimized by others who create insecurities in your life. It’s about being able to take advantages of small things that come your way and keeping a positive outlook even when things appear very bleak.

A master salesman

Rudy was and still is a master salesman if you think about it. He was a success selling cars and insurance after college even though he didn’t like it. He was able to sell his story to Hollywood when he had no inside contacts to the film industry. This book tells the tale of a simple man from the Midwest who had a dream to go to Notre Dame when he didn’t have the grades.

He played college football at one of the finest programs in the country when he didn’t have the size or speed to match up with much bigger and stronger opponents. His story became an inspirational movie that still resonates to millions of people around the world when everyone told him it couldn’t be done. That’s because Rudy had one ingredient that each and every one of us possess if we choose to use it – and that’s heart.

This autobiography resonates about what the human spirit can do when it applies itself to a goal. In the pages of his story he shows us all how to release our own inner “Rudy.”

To him, “Rudy” isn’t an individual thing. It’s a symbolic name. Ever since the movie came out, the name “Rudy” symbolizes a certain drive, a certain “never give up” attitude. He states in his book that people get sidetracked with “self help” ideas at times.

Rudy told me he’s on a nationwide book tour and hopes to hit the D/FW area in the near future, so be on the lookout in regard to where he will be doing signings.

Rudy’s book should be required reading for all of us who like to dream, because Rudy proves that dreams can come true.

Tom Ward can be reached at