The subject of one of the most iconic sports movies of all time is coming to Reno.
Notre Dame legend Rudy Ruettiger, who walked-on for the Irish during one of the most successful eras in their program's history, will be speaking at the Northern Nevada Italian Association Fundraiser on Thursday. Before heading to Reno, he joined NSN Daily on Tuesday to talk with Kirsten Moran to discuss why he's coming.
"It's always good to come to places like Reno," Ruettiger said. "Places you haven't been that much, you can go and influence people's thoughts, hopefully in a positive way, and maybe they can change how they look at life differently, especially today. We have to look at life much differently, how we approach things. We have to be more vigilant. We have to watch what we say, what we do and show more love. All these things are important and a culture that needs it."
The 1993 movie starring Sean Astin highlighted Ruettiger's underdog story of working through college and eventually being a member of the Fighting Irish roster is considered a sports classic. Ruettiger said the same perseverance he had in South Bend was used to get the movie made.
"The journey was about failure, a tremendous amount of failure and how you keep your faith and how you believe in your purpose and what you need to keep doing in order to get that done," Ruettiger said. "And I think that's the grit and the grind of a walk-on because we're all walk-ons in life basically. Whether you go into a new job, you walk in there and have no experience, but this is what you want to do. I call you a walk-on. So everybody has a walk-on experience, whether it's in sports or in life."
"The courage and the commitment that started to get through the ups and downs of the what we call 'the belief level,'" he said. "We learn from our ups and we learn from our downs. It's how we adjust our mindset to get to where we need to go. I'm not saying everybody is going to get there and there's a reason for that. You don't get there because you quit mentally, and when you quit mentally, you'll never get there. If you will it and believe in it, do whatever it takes to get there, in a good, positive way sometimes we get discouraged. Sometimes we get distracted. That's life. That's what life is. How can you bounce back? The best of the best go through it."
Nevada football has had plenty of roster turnover after its coaching change this offseason, including the addition of several local walk-ons. As a former walk-on, Ruettiger gave his advice to Wolf Pack players looking to earn their way onto the field.
"If you believe in, you find it another way," Ruettiger said. "But I believe it. And you never know who's going to come up and help you out get there. So that's why a positive mental attitude is important. It always is important. Bottom line, you've got to work hard. Work ethic is the key. Work ethic and sticking to the plan. That's all you must do if you think you belong. Just work harder than the other guy. That's it. No secret sauce. It's all about work ethic."
Ruettiger also weighed in on Joe Montana, his former Notre Dame teammate and one of the greatest players in NFL history. In 2020, Montana demystified some of the elements of Ruettiger's story as portrayed in the movie. But Ruettiger said he still has a lot of love for the Notre Dame great.
"I'm not going to talk about a teammate, and I'm not going to go against Joe Montana because he interprets everything differently than you and I," Ruettiger said. "So I'm gonna let him have his interpretation, how he saw it and how he feels about it. And I love him to this day. He was a teammate of mine. I'm not going to put him down. I'm saying, 'God bless you, Joe.' I enjoyed your career. I enjoyed you at Notre Dame."
If you want to hear Ruettiger speak in person, he will be at the Eldorado on Thursday at 6 p.m. A $150 ticket includes an Italian buffet and drink ticket. Contact Dale Lazzarone at Dalelazz33@gmail.com or 775-846-0044 for tickets.
You can watch Rudy Ruettiger's full NSN Daily interview below.