From what I recall, the first time I ever cried during a movie was in that scene in Coach Devine’s office where Rudy Ruettiger’s teammates place their jerseys in the coach’s office so he can achieve his dream of dressing for one Notre Dame game. The second time I ever cried was just a few minutes later, when everyone in the stadium chanted Rudy’s name to get him to participate in a play. The tears continued to stream when I saw his teammates carry him off the field and subsequently learned through a title slide that no other Notre Dame player had been carried off the field since.
Rudy is a small classic, and it’s based on a true story. Ruettiger is a small-town kid from a working-class family. From the time he’s a child, his dream is to play football for the University of Notre Dame. He’s not especially gifted athletically or academically, so pretty much everybody around him tells him it’s just a whim, a fool’s errand.
He joins his father and older brothers in working at a local mill right after high school, which is his expected path. He’s about to buy a house and marry his girlfriend, Sherry, which is pretty much the expected path in many small towns (his 20something older brother, Frank, already sports his wedding ring, and his best friend, Pete jokes, “I’d love to go if Rhonda will let me out of the house” in response to an invitation to see Notre Dame’s coach speak a few hours away).
Then Pete is killed in an accident at the mill, which motivates Rudy into gear. He’s going to fly in the face of family tradition and make his dream come true. And what makes this a pro-single movie is that he leaves Sherry behind. He insinuates that she could join him, but she can’t do it. A few months later, she’s dating Rudy’s oldest brother, John. There’s no malice, but she does genuinely indicate her support for his dream. This motivates him to work even harder at school and in his fitness. There are some other obstacles in the way, but Rudy makes it.
There is one “sorta” romantic subplot: Rudy befriends D-Bob, a TA in one of his courses who offers to tutor him privately if Rudy will help him meet a woman. In his last scene, D-Bob is shown with a new girlfriend. But that seems to fit the character; a romantic subplot would no doubt distract Rudy from his vision, as it does many protagonists. I was proud of Sherry for not waiting around for him. And I’m glad to see Rudy made his non-romantic dream come true.