MOUNT PLEASANT, N.Y. – Daniel Ruettiger, the man known to football and movie fans simply as “Rudy,” spoke to a crowd of hundreds at Pace University on Wednesday night and delivered a simple message of hope and encouragement.
Ruettiger addressed the crowd in the Goldstein Fitness & Health Center in the same way he has lived his life: perpetually optimistic, vigorous and energetic. The crux of his message was that one’s circumstances do not limit success. The individual controls his or her own fate.
“It’s not how big you are. It’s not your age,” Ruettiger said. “It’s how you think.”
Ruettiger is living proof of that statement. The scrawny kid from Joliet, Ill., defied the odds and the words of others and both played for the Notre Dame football team and graduated from the university. His life story is the subject of the film “Rudy.”
The 64-year-old recently wrote a book titled “Rudy: My Story,” which chronicles his life and details the creation of the movie. Ruettiger is in the middle of a multiweek tour that involves speaking at colleges and to major media outlets such as CNN and ESPN.
“We’ve got a 30-, 40-day tour here. We just started yesterday,” Ruettiger told The Daily Voice exclusively. “It’s like, ‘Oh my God, can I rest today?’ ”
Pace was one of the many stops on the tour, and Ruettiger spoke to the crowd and took questions for about a half-hour, then signed his book for more than a hundred fans.
His speech was filled with inspirational quotes and messages.
“Don’t get permission to be successful,” Ruettiger said. “You already have permission.”
He also told the crowd that “a leader does the little things that people see and they get inspired.”
The football legend inserted plenty of humor into his speech, as well. He grilled students to identify the fifth president, spoke about his parents’ love life and told a story about how Sylvester Stallone passed on Ruettiger’s movie idea and then came to respect Rudy later after he saw a clip of the film.
He also showed footage of the one statistic he accrued at Notre Dame, a sack on Georgia Tech quarterback Rudy Allen.
Ruettiger told The Daily Voice exclusively after the event that he loved the people at Pace.
“The crowd was awesome. They were into it," Ruettiger said. "They were easy to talk to and you know what? They appreciated the message of the movie, which is important.”
Ruettiger delivered his message with all the zeal and enthusiasm one would expect from a man who achieved his lifelong dream despite everyone around him telling him he would fail. But he said after the event that the message is not his.
He simply puts it into practice and encourages others to do the same.
“It’s a timeless message and because of the football, the metaphor,” Ruettiger said, “it helps keep that message alive.”