“RUDY! RUDY! RUDY!” is a familiar chant to any dad. And it's likely to be heard on Father’s Day when Notre Dame football legend Daniel “Rudy” Ruettiger comes to Long Island for “An Afternoon with Rudy” at Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center.
Although he wasn’t an MVP quarterback or star wide receiver, Ruettiger is famous for his tenacity and drive, making it on the Fighting Irish squad as a walk-on, scoring a defensive sack and getting carried off the field after briefly playing in only one official game. His story was turned into the 1993 film “Rudy” and will be the focus of his live one-man show.
“You have to keep dreaming and dream big,” says Ruettiger, 70, of Las Vegas. “Don’t let people steal your joy, and remember, perseverance is the secret sauce to get through anything.”
Ruettiger, the third of 14 children, claims his fountain of inner determination came from his father.
“My dad worked hard and struggled to put food on the table and a roof over our heads,” he says. “But when Notre Dame played, his eyes lit up. It gave him hope and I wanted to be part of that.”
Ruettiger's one-man show was inspired by a letter of encouragement he wrote to his daughter teaching the message of “Rudy,” which extends beyond sports.
“There’s a Rudy in everybody,” says Ruettiger. “The Rudy factor is when a regular person overcomes adversity. The key is getting through the tough times and focusing on the light at the end of the tunnel.”
STORY TO FEATURE FILM
Much like his football career, Ruettiger patiently persevered to get his story sold to Hollywood.
“It took 10 years to get to the right people, but it worked,” says Ruettiger. “I knocked on writer Angelo Pizzo’s door in California and that turned into the movie, ‘Rudy.’ Remember this — if you don’t knock on a door, you’ll never get your results.”
Surprisingly, Notre Dame wasn’t initially interested in having the film made.
“They already had a movie, ‘Knute Rockne, All American.’ But this message was bigger than football,” says Ruettiger. “I had to wait for the right time to approach Notre Dame.”
Today the university fully embraces the film.
“Notre Dame shows it every year to incoming freshmen,” says Ruettiger. “They even opened up the new stadium by showing the film in front of more than 20,000 people.”
When asked how close the film was to real life, Ruettiger says, “Everything in the film happened. But it might have happened a different way or time, but it was all there.”
Ruettiger recently released a documentary about his life called, “Rudy Ruettiger: The Walk On,” in which he discusses everything from his time in the Navy to being famously carried off the field.
“Frankly, I was embarrassed,” says Ruettiger about being carried. “I said to my teammates, ‘What are you doing?’ They said, ‘We’re taking you all the way to the tunnel, man!’ ”
"An Afternoon With Rudy"
WHEN | WHERE 4 p.m. June 16, Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center, 76 Main St.
INFO $45 (includes signed movie poster, photo op and meet-and-greet); 631-288-1500, whbpac.org
MORE FOR FATHERS
Don’t know what to do with Dad? Here are 5 extra things to get him going on Father’s Day.
Take a stroll through the Great Neck Street Fair and Music Festival
WHEN | WHERE 10 a.m.-5 p.m., 607 Middle Neck Rd., Great Neck
INFO Free; nassaucountycraftshows.com
Catch “Field of Dreams” on the big screen.
WHEN | WHERE 1 p.m., Regal Westbury 12, 7000 Brush Hollow Rd., and Regal Deer Park 16, Tanger Outlets, 455 Commack Rd.
INFO $12.50; fathomevents.com
Make slime or build a volcano during Mud Day at the Sweetbriar Nature Center.
WHEN | WHERE 1-3 p.m. Sweetbriar Nature Center, 62 Eckernkamp Dr., Smithtown
INFO $10 kids, $5 adults; 631-979-6344, sweetbriarnc.org
Grab a craft brew and catch some live music from Marty Attridge at Greenport Harbor Brewing Company in Peconic.
WHEN | WHERE 3-6 p.m., Greenport Harbor Brewing Company, 42155 Main Rd., Peconic
INFO No cover; 631-477-1100, greenportharborbrewing.com
Get some belly laughs at Gabriel Iglesias' stand-up concerts at The Paramount.
WHEN | WHERE 5 and 8 p.m., The Paramount, 370 New York Ave.,Huntington
INFO $39.50-$99.50; 631-673-7300, paramountny.com
— David J. Criblez