Rudy S.L.A.M.s Competition

Rudy S.L.A.M.s Competition

Maggie Fried

The inspirational story of a young man who overcomes obstacles to attend Notre Dame University and play for its football team is the basis for the well-known movie Rudy, but perhaps less known is the actual man who inspired the movie — Rudy Ruettiger.

On Saturday night in Memorial Chapel, Ruettiger not only gave audience members tips on how to succeed in life, but also provided a glimpse into the character of the man who inspired the movie.

“We were looking for a speaker who would be well known here on campus and in the greater Hamilton community and who was an ‘unconventional leader,’ a point that we thought would accent some of the points of the S.L.A.M. conference,” president of the Student Leadership Team sophomore Spencer Cercone said.

The lecture was the keynote address for the S.L.A.M (Students, Leaders, Artists, Motivators) conference, which was a series of workshops that took place during the day on Saturday, followed that evening by a dinner and Ruettiger’s address.

“The overall purpose of the S.L.A.M. conference is to introduce first-years and students who have recently taken leadership positions here on campus to the resources available here at Colgate,” Cercone said. “Plus, it’s student organized. It is loosely based on the Leadership Institute program that Links, RAs and other campus leaders attend before the school year starts.”

Although the lecture was part of the conference, it was open to anyone who wanted to attend. As excited as the audience was to hear from Ruettiger, he was just as excited to be speaking at Colgate.

“Does anyone have a camera?” Ruettiger said as soon as he walked up to the podium, “I want to take a picture in front of the podium so I can show my friends that I’m at Colgate.”

After an audience member snapped a picture of him in front of the podium, Ruettiger began his speech by telling the audience his purpose.

“My purpose is to make you think tonight,” Ruettiger said.

During the hour-long speech, Ruettiger told of the obstacles he faced in life. Some stories, like his struggle to be admitted to Notre Dame, were portrayed in the movie and others, like getting someone in Hollywood to pay attention to his story, were not. He also showed two short film clips to help convey his message.

“I thought his message was genuine,” sophomore Nick Parry said. “Despite going off on a number of tangents, the general intent of his speech was quite clear. Although the speech itself was not formal and quite unstructured, he managed to engage the audience more than a scholarly figure may have been able to do.”

Ruettiger constantly strove to engage the audience throughout his lecture, which was exemplified by his frequent pauses after stories to ask the audience, “Does that make sense?”

After his speech, a question and answer session was held. Even after the conclusion of the event, some audience members stayed in the Chapel hoping for a chance to speak personally with Ruettiger.

“The audience responded incredibly well to Rudy’s presentation giving him a standing ovation, something that is somewhat of a rarity around here, and asking over a dozen questions in the question and answer session,” Cercone said. “We also had a crowd of people lining up to meet Mr. Ruettiger following the lecture, many holding film posters, Notre Dame jerseys, hats et cetera.”

“I went to the speech thinking that Rudy would be an awe-inspiring figure of athletic prowess and scholarly achievement whose image was sadly misconstrued by Hollywood,” Parry said. “In fact, for the majority of his address, I did not see just Mr. Ruettiger, but I saw the paramount figure in sports history that became Rudy.”