Goss: Dan ‘Rudy’ Ruettiger home for book signing at Joliet Catholic
September 22, 2012 2:00AM
Daniel "Rudy" Ruettiger, on whose life the movie "Rudy" was based, indicates to students at a Notre Dame pep rally on Friday, Oct. 14, 2005, in South Bend, Ind., that when then-No. 1 USC has the ball, they should make a lot of noise, and when Notre Dame h
‘Rudy’ book signing
Who: Dan “Rudy” Ruettiger
“Rudy: My Story”
Where: Joliet Catholic
Student Activity Center
When: Tuesday (Doors open at 6 p.m. with books available for purchase; Ruettiger speaks at 7 p.m., book signing to follow.)
Updated: October 24, 2012 6:33AM
Dan “Rudy” Ruettiger had his son and daughter courtside at a Los Angeles Lakers game.
“Kobe Bryant found out I was Rudy,” Ruettiger said. “He came over and said, ‘Dude, you’re my hero,’ right in front of my son and daughter. ‘I saw your movie when I was 16 years old. I saw a kid with no talent who would get hit, get up and do it again.
“ ‘I said if you can do it, I can — and I got talent.’ ”
Ruettiger, one of the most respected motivational speakers on the circuit, is on a 12-state tour, which began in New York with stops including Fox, CNN and CBS, to promote his new autobiography, “Rudy: My Story.” Another planned stop is Saturday’s Notre Dame-Michigan game. He’s scheduled to be at U.S. Cellular Field on Monday night to throw out the ceremonial first pitch at the White Sox game against Cleveland.
Then Tuesday night, he’s scheduled to be back at his alma mater, Joliet Catholic, to speak and to sign books.
From his lower middle-class Joliet background, Ruettiger became an inspiration nationwide when the Hollywood film “Rudy” depicting his relentless effort to get into Notre Dame and play football there despite his 5-foot-6, 165-pound frame became one of the most popular sports movies ever.
Who doesn’t know Rudy?
“When we were in New York, our hotel was at 77th and Broadway,” Ruettiger said. “I looked out the window and there was Ladder 25. I saw a couple of firemen there, so I went across to give them the book. I told them I know a couple of your brothers died on 9-11. You are my heroes.
“I walked away. They looked at the book a little closer, and they started chasing me down the street. They caught me a half-block away and said, ‘Are you the real Rudy? Come on over and have dinner with us.’
“So I did. We sat in the station and talked about the blue-collar attitude, the culture there that is like what I know. It was awesome to sit there and listen to those guys. It tells you the message of Rudy is in our culture.”
Ruettiger said Bryant put him on his Facebook page. When he threw out the ceremonial first pitch at a Baltimore Orioles game, outfielder Adam Jones had to shake his hand and tell him how much of an inspiration he was to him.
“Carmelo Anthony, Jeremy Lin, they’ve referenced the movie,” Ruettiger said. “This goes beyond sports to the business world and to family. There are so many wonderful stories the movie has touched.”
In the book, Ruettiger tells his story of struggling in school with undiagnosed dyslexia and getting in with a rough crowd. There were other failures along the way, but he persisted. The bottom line is not how many times you get knocked down but how many times you get up.
“I wanted people to know there’s a movie (which starred Sean Astin as Rudy) and a real life, what is real and what is an embellishment in the movie,” Ruettiger said. “I wanted to deliver a message of hope. Don’t live in the past.”
Former University of St. Francis basketball coach Pat Sullivan worked with Ruettiger in getting Joliet on his book tour.
“We had a premiere of the movie in Joliet that raised money for Habitat (for Humanity), and I wanted to do this in Joliet because of Pat Sullivan and because I wanted to honor Gordie (Gillespie, his football coach at Joliet Catholic),” Ruettiger said. “I wanted to honor a great coach who has influenced the lives of many hundreds of kids in the Joliet area.”
Ruettiger joined the Navy after high school, then returned home and worked for a while at Commonwealth Edison before finally getting into Holy Cross College and then Notre Dame.
“Gordie inspired me to keep going,” Ruettiger said. “He easily could have told me that he wasn’t sure I should go that way when I had my heart set on playing football at Notre Dame. But when I got back from the Navy, you know what he told me? He said, ‘You’re going to make it because you’re Rudy.’ ”
Or, as Ruettiger likes to joke: “If Pat Mudron (his former Joliet Catholic teammate who did play for the Irish) can go to Notre Dame, so can Rudy.”
Ruettiger talks of Gillespie in his book while recalling the high and lows of his life, including those 10 long years attempting to sell his story to Hollywood after he realized his dream of playing football at Notre Dame, capped by suiting up for a game Nov. 8, 1975, against Georgia Tech and recording a sack on his final play. He was carried off the field on the shoulders of his teammates, and was the first of only two players in Notre Dame history to have received that honor.
There are so many stories from Ruettiger’s journey that he would love to relate to the people back home, hopefully including many up-and-coming young athletes. Doors will open at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Joliet Catholic. Books will be available for purchase via cash, check and credit/debit card.
Ruettiger, founder of the Rudy Foundation to benefit children’s advocacy programs, will speak at 7 p.m. and the book signing will follow. A wristband system will dictate the order for those who purchase books to get in line for the signing; it will be on a first-come, first-served basis.
Books also can be bought ahead of time, but to receive a wristband, you must present a paid copy and receipt at the sales table. Ruettiger also will sign one additional piece of memorabilia per paid copy and will pose for a photo.
Consider this a rare opportunity to hear and meet one of our own who became a national motivational treasure.