On a gusty evening in Los Lunas, as 300 graduates and close to 5,000 of their closest friends and family members sat in attendance, Daniel “Rudy” Reuttiger recounted the undying courage and perseverance that made his story a blockbuster film.
Reuttiger was a walk-on at the University of Notre Dame in the late 1970s. Against all odds, he not only made it onto one of the most talented teams in college football, but, by persevering, he accomplished a lifetime goal that lasted just 27 seconds.
Reuttiger played only the last 27 seconds of the final game of his senior year — a short time but a large achievement. His teammates recognized his efforts and rewarded him by carrying him off the field. He is the last player to have been carried off the field at Notre Dame.
The story is a familiar one, later made into a feature film, but Los Lunas High School graduates and the thousands in attendance got to hear the main theme from the source himself on Saturday night.
The man stands no more than 5 feet 6 inches tall and was almost dwarfed by the podium where he stood to give his speech. Seeing Reutigger peeking over that podium made the movie that much more believable and his story that much more moving.
Reutigger, though sometimes hard to follow in his parallels, emphasized the importance of perseverance and surrounding oneself with the “right kind of people.”
Throughout Reutigger’s speech, he referred to and re-stated some of the points made earlier in the Valedictorian speeches and the speech of Nathan Tooker, the student body president.
Between stories about people he had inspired, and stories about people who never believed in him, Rudy inspired the hearts of many there on the Tigers’ football field.
Reuttiger ended his speech with a story about his young daughter and a song. He said he was singing a song to show everyone there that someday they too would have the strength to get up in front of 5,000 people and sing a children’s song.