Rudy has enjoyed a perennial seat in the upper echelons of the most inspirational sports movies. The 1993 classic was at the forefront of a wave of sports films based on true stories. Classics like Mystery, Alaska, Remember the Titans, Glory Road, and Friday Night Lights all continued to blaze the trail of a genre Rudy reinvigorated.
However, there are times when Hollywood bends the very meaning of the phrase, "based on a true story," by sanitizing movies. For instance, there are lots of historical facts that movies got wrong. There is certainly a healthy share of Rudy Ruettiger facts in the film, but it is also guilty of ignoring facts and flat-out rewriting history. This list compares some of the real Rudy Ruettiger stories to how they were depicted in the timeless inspirational movie.
Every movie needs a bad guy who's hell-bent on keeping the protagonist from achieving glory, and Rudy is no exception. There are plenty of naysayers throughout the film, but Rudy continually circumnavigates their negativity with persistence. Enter Chelcie Ross’ portrayal of Coach Dan Devine, a seemingly immovable object in the path of Rudy’s unstoppable force. Devine means business and his coaching style doesn’t welcome input from any outsiders.
By Devine's calculation in the movie, Rudy is far from the best player on the roster, so he’s got a snowball’s chance in hell to play in any game. Devine only relents to let Rudy suit up after the team's incredible gesture of humanity - one of the emotional climaxes of the entire film. However, in reality, Coach Devine was just as supportive of Rudy as anyone on the team. During the actual Georgia Tech game, Devine was adamant that everyone got to play.
Arguably one of the most inspiring moments of the film is when the entire team rallies together and threatens to quit the team right before the last game of the season. It's Rudy’s final chance to play in a real game, but he isn’t listed on the active roster. The number of players allowed on the sidelines is just too small, so when Rudy learns he isn’t listed, he finally quits.
Little did he know that one after the other, his teammates march into Devine’s office and offer to let Rudy play in their stead. Only that did not happen in real life. Devine did not forbid or prohibit Rudy from suiting up for the Georgia Tech game in 1975. That said, it does make for one damn, fine moment in the coffers of sports movies.
Perhaps the reason the filmmakers left Rudy’s time in the Navy out of the film is because it would have eradicated an ongoing struggle he faced while attending college. The scheduling demands of student-athletes are plentiful, and even more so for one like Rudy who had to balance school, football, and work. He continually grapples with the ability to make tuition payments to Holy Cross College, even with his job as a groundskeeper under Fortune.
In the real world, Ruettiger’s tuition was covered at both Holy Cross and Notre Dame under the GI Bill since he served in the military. The lack of making tuition payments would have freed up much of Rudy’s time as a student-athlete, and the ongoing drama of his inability to maintain balance would have all but evaporated. By omitting Rudy’s Navy career from the movie, there is no GI Bill, and with no GI Bill, his workload increases tenfold while in school.
Rudy’s older brother, Frank, was a pseudo-antagonist throughout the film. He mocked Rudy’s dreams of playing football for Notre Dame for their entire upbringing. Frank’s negative presence is eventually replaced by other menacing characters, like Vince Vaughn’s Jamie O’Hara.
Thankfully, Frank embraces maturity by the end of the movie and is supportive as an older brother. There’s one small problem with the accuracy behind Frank’s portrayal – he didn’t exist. Of the fourteen Ruettiger children, Rudy was the oldest boy. The invented older brother, Frank, was intended to act as an amalgamation of all the discouraging voices Rudy dealt with on the way to securing his place in Notre Dame’s legacy.