I went to hear Daniel “Rudy” Ruettiger speak last weekend. If you have ever seen the movie Rudy (a favorite), his story will be familiar. This is his real story, not the one portrayed in the movie.
Rudy grew up as one of fourteen children in a working-class household. He was small in size and had marginal grades. He described himself as a dreamer who always imagined that better was possible. After graduating high school, he served two years in the navy and worked another two years at a power plant. He loved Notre Dame football and his dream was to attend Notre Dame. The first time he applied to Notre Dame he was not accepted and instead, with the help of a priest who was the former President of the University, was accepted into Holy Cross College. While there he learned he was dyslexic. He worked for two years to improve his grades and finally, on his fourth application to Notre Dame, was accepted into the college. He tried out for the football team,earning a spot on the practice squad (no mean feat for someone 5’6″ and 185 lbs!) and spent two years helping prepare the team for games. In the last home game of his senior year, in recognition of his devotion to the team, Rudy was allowed to dress for the game with the team. He participated in three plays at the very end of the game, sacking the opposing team’s quarterback in the final seconds of play. Rudy was carried off the field by his teammates.
Rudy has some very interesting things to say about staying focused and reaching for impossible goals.
- Regardless of our age, without something to strive for, we founder.
- He talked about “goofy thoughts,” those voices in your head that tell you you can’t do something or that a goal is unrealistic, or the voices of others who tell you something is impossible. Their message is the same: aim lower; be satisfied with what you have; better isn’t possible. Goofy thoughts drive you away from your purpose and can lead you into trouble. I loved that he put his message in such simple terms so that kids in attendance could understand.
- He talked about the importance of mentors in his life. Most were just regular people and would hardly call themselves a mentor. By giving encouragement they helped him to remain focused as he kept true to his course. We need to believe that anything is possible. (I wonder, who did you encourage today?)
An inspirational story and a great message.