October 13, 1993 marked the world-wide release of the now iconic film “Rudy”. The movie had made its world premiere one week earlier at the Rialto Square Theater in Joliet, the hometown of the movie’s inspiration, Daniel “Rudy” Ruettiger. Rudy is a 1966 graduate of Joliet Catholic High School (now Joliet Catholic Academy) and earned his degree from the University of Notre Dame in 1976. Rudy has written several books, including his’s autobiography “Rudy My Story” and helps others achieve their dreams through his foundation.
Q: You graduated from Joliet Catholic before the IHSA playoffs began in 1974. Any predictions on how your squad would have fared had there been playoffs when you played?
: (laughs) We would have won it all! We had some great athletes and a really good quarterback on that team. It’s fun to think about and speculate on now. Maybe we can get all those guys together and go play it out (laughs). In all seriousness though, we had one of the best coaches ever in Gordie (Gillespie), so I would have liked our odds in any game.
Q: Several of your brothers, nephews and cousins have been individual or a part of IHSA state champion teams in baseball, football and wrestling, as coaches and student-athletes. What has that experience been like to see them be so successful?
: It’s just good to see them coach or play sports, because either way it helps develop kids. I enjoy seeing them win, but they understand the value of what it is all about. At the end of the day, I think you learn more from losing than winning, so I want them to get those life lessons and grow from sports. I look at my nephew John (Ruettiger) playing AA baseball in the Orioles organization. He might get the chance to play in front of 40,000 people someday, but he will be doing it for the 40 people who watched him play as a freshman in high school. The magic of high schools sports is that you are always trying to validate yourself for those people who believed in you when you were just getting started.
Q: Anything folks may not know about when they are watching the movie they should look for during their next viewing?
: Most people know that when Sean Astin (as Rudy) sacks the quarterback in the closing moments of the movie, Ned Beatty (playing Rudy’s dad) turns around in the stands and in his excitement hugs an unknown fan sitting behind him, which is actually me. Most people may not know that many of my relatives are in the film in various extra roles and that my brothers’ play the coaches for Notre Dame and Georgia Tech.
Q: Jon Favreau and Vince Vaughn were both virtual unknowns when the film came out, but have gone on to have monstrous success. What do you remember about them and do you have any favorite movies either has been in since Rudy?
: Those guys have done some pretty interesting things in their movies since (laughs). I'm kidding, they are great entertainers! What I remember is that I felt like they both believed in the movie and they didn’t just take the job because it was a job. They were both great guys, fun to be around and very eager and hungry to succeed. They reminded me of myself in some ways, especially Jon. He asked questions to everyone. He wanted to know everything about how a movie gets made, from my story, to the directors, to the other actors to the camera guys and so on.
Q: What is the question you are asked most often?
: Did you really make that tackle? I say, yes, go look, it’s on Youtube!
Q: What does it mean to you to have your movie still be beloved 20 years later?
: We set out to make a movie that will last forever, not to try and make millions of dollars in box office sales. I think we accomplished that.