MAYPEARL — The Maypearl High School student body was chanting “Rudy, Rudy, Rudy…” as the 5-feet 6-inch, 1975 Notre Dame graduate Daniel Eugene “Rudy” Ruettiger burst into the school’s gymnasium 9 a.m. Friday to deliver his motivational message.

Students, faculty and a few community leaders sat spellbound as Ruettiger told his story, as illustrated in the 1993 inspirational movie depicting his experience of overcoming impossible odds of not only playing only two plays in the final 27 seconds of the final game of his senior year at Notre Dame. He was unable to sack Georgia Tech’s quarterback on the first play, but on the second and final play of the game, he was able to break through and make the sack.

Ruettiger was the first of only two players in Notre Dame history that was ever carried off the field by his teammates.

He used his odds-beating experiences – like having a hard time in grade school and ultimately discovering he was dyslexic to show the Maypearl students they too could overcome whatever obstacles they faced.

“I was the third in my high school class – from the bottom,” he said, adding that after two years at Holy Cross College across town from Notre Dame, and three rejections to transfer, he was finally accepted to Notre Dame in the fall of 1974.

Ruettiger told the Maypearl students that it was possible for any of them to get what they really wanted out of life.

“When you’re in your moment, you can be whomever you want to be,” he challenged. “I’m not a great speaker – but I’m speaking; I’m not a great dancer, but I know a few steps; I’m not the best looking guy, but I’m OK.”

After making mediocre grades in grade school, Ruettiger discovered after he joined the Navy that he had the skills to be a leader.

“My mom always made us fold and iron our underwear and all our other clothes on Saturdays, to be ready for mass the next morning,” he said. “Then, later, when I was in bootcamp, while standing inspection, the company commander came over and found that my underwear had been folded neatly and correctly. He saw, just by my neatly folded underwear, that I had character and passion and he told me I was a leader.”

He told the students that they had the power to make choices – either good or bad – and character was the most important component in facing struggles in life.

Ruettiger’s visit to Maypearl was made possible by the Cowboy Bank of Maypearl, and Maypearl ISD, with equipment and volunteers being provided by Maypearl First Baptist Church.

Cowboy Bank mortgage and consumer lending director Chelsea Davis told how the process began, which led to inviting Ruettiger to address the students.

“It was really our bank president, Larry Burns’ idea, and started the process –  I took it from there and started making the contacts over the Internet,” she said saying Grandview Bank also sponsored the event and Ruettiger was scheduled to speak to the Grandview High School student body later Friday afternoon.

Contact Paul at paul.gauntt@wninews.com or 469-517-1450.