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Man who inspired the football movie classic "Rudy" to speak at John Carroll

Rudy Ruettiger, of the classic football movie "Rudy," will speak at John Carroll School Sunday.
Rudy Ruettiger, of the classic football movie "Rudy," will speak at John Carroll School Sunday. (Stacie Frazier / Baltimore Sun)

Daniel "Rudy" Ruettiger, the unlikely University of Notre Dame football player whose story inspired the 1993 movie "Rudy," will be sharing that story at The John Carroll School in Bel Air Sunday.

Proceeds from the event, which will take place from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. in the school auditorium, will be divided between the school and Harford County's Department of Parks and Recreation.

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Ruettiger, the third of 14 children, grew up in Illinois dreaming of playing football for Notre Dame, but was challenged by his small size and a learning disability, according to his website.

The movie "Rudy" tells how he beat the odds to make a key play in a 1975 game against Georgia Tech and, ultimately, made history by being the first Notre Dame player to be carried off the field in victory by his teammates.

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Jimmy Malone, the county parks and recreation director and a longtime Notre Dame football fan, said he was driven to bring Ruettiger to Harford County after meeting him in Catonsville.

"Anybody that knows me knows I live and die Notre Dame football, and I have since I was a little boy," Malone, a former Maryland state delegate who played football for the Arbutus Athletic Association and Baltimore's former Cardinal Gibbons High School, said.

"This is my favorite time of year, and I have had the honor and privilege of meeting Rudy several times," Malone said. "This is one of these stories where he was a gentleman that was told he can't, he can't, he can't, and here he was, the first football player carried off the field at Notre Dame."

Ruettiger has made a career as a motivational speaker. Part of the funds from the event will benefit the National Alliance for Youth Sports, Malone said.

"I just thought it would be great to have Rudy up here. When I came up here, I found out there are a lot of Notre Dame fans here, [with] Rudy going to Catholic school and all that, people saying he couldn't do anything. I just want to let all the kids know it's the kind of story that has a lot of purpose for it," Malone said.

Malone found a willing host in John Carroll, whose ties to Notre Dame football date to Gerard Gray Jr., the Bel Air Catholic school's first football coach, who taught history and coached sports for 30 years at John Carroll.

Gray, who died in 1995, played football at Notre Dame in 1962 and brought some of the college's traditions, like its gold helmets, to the Bel Air school, John Carroll spokesperson Joe Schuberth said Tuesday.

"It's kind of like the Notre Dame spirit here all the way back to the early days of John Carroll," Schuberth said of the school, which opened in 1964.

Ruettiger "was an interesting speaker to have come here anyway, and he goes around and speaks and helps schools with different fundraisers," Schuberth said. "We thought it would be a good fit here."

The school has been showing the movie "Rudy" in the cafeteria so the students, who are too young to remember it, have the opportunity to view it, he said.

Schuberth said John Carroll leaders are always looking for ways to help the school and hope to get about 300 people for the Ruettiger event.

"We are hoping that he is going to inspire our students and our alumni and the community and really show them that dreams can come true if you stick to them and work hard, you can achieve anything you want," he said. "It should be a good event."

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Tickets for the event are $30 for regular admission and $15 for students ages 18 and younger. Sponsorships ranging from $250 to $2,500 are also available.

More information is available at JohnCarroll.org.

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