CANTON The Stark County District Library kicked of its annual Dr. Audrey Lavin Speaking of Books Author Series by hosting Notre Dame football legend Daniel "Rudy" Ruettiger last week at the Canton Palace Theatre.
Ruettiger kicked off this year's series by talking about his book, "Rudy: My Story," which chronicles his story of playing college football for Notre Dame and the 27 seconds that changed his life when the 5-foot-6 walk-on, scout team player got an opportunity to dress for the final game of his Notre Dame career against Georgia Tech in 1975. In his only snap, Ruettiger recorded a sack. His story spurred the 1993 movie "Rudy."
Ruettiger's message to a packed audience at the Canton Palace Theatre was inspirational and motivational.
"Rudy’s story of dogged determination and overcoming the odds makes him an inspirational addition to the Speaking of Books Author Series," said Stark County Library Community Services Director Marianna DeGiacomo in a statement.
Ruettiger’s book is also this year’s One Book, One Community, Stark County selection. One Book is a community collaboration of several libraries in the area working together to encourage county residents of all ages to join together in reading and discussing a common book.
Ruettiger, who was engaging and humorous, spoke to a crowd of about 1,500 people. His message was one of dreaming, determination, doing and persevering. He talked about how there were 14 kids in his family and about their roles in his life.
"I didn’t know growing up that I had a learning disorder. I knew I couldn’t read or do math like my friends, but I didn’t know I had dyslexia," he said. "Growing up in such a big family, you learn pretty quickly how to fight and argue in the right way. My mother said she and my father made a commitment to never fight in front of the kids. She said they always argued in the bedroom and always joked that was why there were 14 of us."
There were stories of his family riding to church with 16 people in a Plymouth Fury and how his father said people who talk in church would have their ears fall off. Ruettiger said his dad’s eyes would light up when the priest would talk about the Notre Dame score.
"If Notre Dame won, we’d have a good week a home," Ruettiger said. "I asked my mother if she thought I could go to Notre Dame and play football. We didn’t have the money, I didn’t have the smarts and I couldn’t run as fast as others. My mother always told me to keep dreaming."
He said that everyone has the "magic" inside, it just has to be stimulated and motivated. Through his sheer determination and perseverance, he got into Notre Dame and played football. His next big dream was to make his story into a movie.
Notre Dame said no to the movie idea at first. Ruettiger expressed his dreams of a movie to many people and made quite a few connections along the way. Eventually, he got backing for the movie and Notre Dame approved the script.
"The secret is having a connection to your faith whatever that may be, forget about taking shortcuts and always work on your dreams," he said. "People will find you when you are focused and determined. You have to bounce back when life beats you down."