Dreams inspire learning, and focus is the key to success, Ruettiger said.
By HAROLD GWIN
VINDICATOR EDUCATION WRITER
LIBERTY -- Daniel Ruettiger wasn't physically imposing as a Notre Dame football player.
But what the 5-foot-7 inch, 200-pounder lacked in size and speed, he more than made up for in heart.
Ruettiger, known as Rudy, went down in Notre Dame history when he finally got onto the field in the last home game of his senior season in 1975 and sacked the Georgia Tech quarterback on the last play of the game.
He had picked out his dream of playing for Notre Dame, set his goal and focused on what he wanted to do, not letting naysayers defeat him.
And that's the message Ruettiger, now a motivational speaker, author and humanitarian, brought to the fourth annual From Steel to Scholars awards luncheon Wednesday at the Holiday Inn MetroPlex.
The event drew more than 400 people to honor local school districts that achieved the "excellent" mark on their state report cards this year.
Rudy's story was made into the 1993 film "Rudy" starring Sean Austin, and Ruettiger said it was his idea to get the inspirational story on the big screen.
It was another example of perseverance and working to make your dream a reality, he said, noting it took 10 years to close a deal.
Ruettiger had a learning disability and acknowledges he wasn't a good pupil growing up.
But his goal was to attend Notre Dame and play football, so he spent two years in a junior college getting A's and B's before he could enroll at Notre Dame.
He wasn't an athletic novice, having played football in high school, and he was a boxer at Notre Dame. So, he was prepared for the physical abuse he suffered in making the team, he said.
He got into that final home game as a defensive end, though that hadn't been his particular position on the practice squad. He just filled in wherever they needed him, he recalled.
He offered this advice to students: "Pick out your roadmap. You'll be inspired to learn."
Focus on what you want to do, whether it be a plumber, a doctor or whatever career you choose, and work toward that goal, he said.
Dreams inspire people to learn, and focus is the key to success, Ruettiger said. Visualize where you want to go and don't listen to those who say you can't get there, he said.
Everyone is a Rudy, he said.
"Don't ever let anyone steal your dreams."
From Steel to Scholars is an organization formed in 2003 to promote excellence, accountability and improvement in school district achievement test scores in Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties.
Each year, it holds a luncheon ceremony to honor those districts that achieve an "excellent" rating on those tests.
Twelve public school districts reached that ranking this year. They are: Columbiana, Girard, Lakeview, Maplewood, Springfield, West Branch, Champion, Lowellville, Western Reserve, Poland, Canfield and South Range.
Some of them have been achieving that highest level for years.
Champion has done it for three consecutive years, Lowellville and Western Reserve for five, Poland for six, Canfield for seven and South Range for eight.
From Steel to Scholars also recognized the Diocese of Youngstown for the first time this year for achieving excellence on the Catholic Schools Report Card for several years.
The diocese has 37 elementary and six high schools in a six-county area.