Rudy Visits County, Great Response At Clarion Area, Redbank Valley and Clarion University

(Above image by Ron Wilshire : Rudy at podium during Clarion High presentation)

Daniel “Rudy” Ruettiger, the famed Notre Dame walk-on football player, inspirational speaker and subject of the 1993 film “Rudy” which has inspired millions ever since, made a special visit to Clarion County, earlier this week, with “Rudy Events” held at Clarion Area High School and Elementary and Clarion University of Pennsylvania on Wednesday (March 30th) and at Redbank Valley High School on Thursday, (March 31st).

I had the privilege of attending Mr. Ruettiger’s presentation at Clarion Area High School.

(Image by Ron Wilshire: Rudy and some of the students prior to the Clarion High School event)

The program opened with welcoming comments from Clarion Area teacher and member of the event’s organizing committee Mr. Dave Constantino. He gave a special welcome to the Clarion-Limestone and Keystone students and their chaperones who were in attendance. About thirty students from both schools were in the audience.

(Mr. Constantino announcing winners of photos, drawn by Joey Spence [at left of podium] )

Then, student Joey Spence drew names of ten other students who won photos of “Rudy” which Mr. Ruettiger signed for them after the program.

Next, a short video “This is my legacy – Rudy” was shown. The Clarion Area Marching Band, directed by Miss Sarah Dawson, played the Notre Dame Fight Song, which is also Clarion Area’s Fight Song. Miss Dawson did double-duty as she played a five-piece drum set as a member of the Drumline.

(Clarion Area Marching Band playing the Fight Song)

Mr. Constantino led the gathering in a rousing welcoming “Rudy, Rudy, Rudy…” (in a way that only a dyed in the wool Fighting Irish fan can) as Mr. Ruettiger stepped up to the mic.

Mr. Ruettiger mentioned how happy he was to see the kids, saying he can see they “are great kids; you show respect.” He mentioned how important it is to leave a legacy behind, as you get old and that among those things is caring about others and thanking others. As he was elaborating on that the Band re-entered, and he had everyone give them a hand.

Throughout Mr. Ruettiger’s presentation he mentioned others who helped him along the way, his family, a superior in the Navy, folks who helped him get into Notre Dame and those who helped him while he was there.

He mentioned that “You can’t succeed by yourself” and “You have to make your dream bigger than yourself,” looking for others to help along the way. Mr. Ruettiger shared about different individuals whose example of sticking to their dreams, when no one else believed in them, influenced him and vice versa. Two examples he shared were Sylvester Stallone’s drive to get “Rocky” on the screen and Sean Astin’s never giving up when things were tough, which was the main reason he selected him for the role of Rudy.

Some major takeaways from Mr. Ruettiger’s presentation included: Stop thinking that you are a failure; carry on with strength and conviction; dream big and pursue that dream and let your dream fuel others’ dreams.

Row 1 (L-R): Lillian Kiskadden, Ali Stanford-Young, “Rudy”, Allison Acey, Ben Naser, Keira Mrozek, and Wyatt Aaron. Row 2 (L-R): Kam Kerle, Nathan Frederick, Theo Sweet, Brady Quinn, Tanner Miller, and Teddy Rearick [who had his backpack autographed])

Next it was on to Clarion Area Elementary.

(Image courtesy of Janiya Jones and Taylor Alston: Dave and Rudy before heading to the elementary school)

(Editor’s note: This pic of “Rudy” and his chauffer Dave Constantino was posted on Facebook by Dave’s wife Kim. One of the comments said, “Notre Dave!” I’m not sure if that person just came up with that, or if I just wasn’t aware of it. Either way, it’s my Nickname for him from here out. You see there are a lot of us Notre Dame fans around here… then there’s Notre Dave!!)

Clarion Area Elementary Principal Roger Walter shared about the happenings at that venue. “Mr. Rudy Ruettiger visited the Clarion Area Elementary school on Wednesday morning to spend time with 4th, 5th, and 6th grade students. 

(Clarion Area image: Mr. Ruettiger speaking at the elementary)

“The message shared with the high school students was echoed at the elementary school.  Rudy encouraged students to set goals, never give up, be kind to others, respect yourself, and ultimately out work others! 

“The Bobcats were excited to meet Mr. Ruettiger and enjoyed hearing about this accomplishments and positive mindset philosophy.” 

(Clarion Area image: Mr. Ruettiger with students at the elementary)

After the time at the elementary school there was a luncheon at the high school, with faculty, staff and guests.

Clarion Area Superintendent Dr. Joe Carrico shared, “We are grateful to our local sponsors who supported this opportunity to bring Rudy to Clarion Area and also the community for the evening event.

“Rudy’s story is timeless, and the students really connected with the message of perseverance, respect, commitment and hard work.”  It took a lot of effort from a lot of people to make this day happen and we are deeply appreciative of everyone’s help to make this day and these events a success.”

(Mr. Ruettiger signing photos)

Dave Constantino shared about his time with Mr. Ruettiger. “I really enjoyed getting the opportunity to meet Rudy this week.  I’ve always enjoyed watching the movie with my family (with all of us being Notre Dame fans) and getting the time to interact with him on Wednesday was pretty awesome. 

“His message was spot on with the students and seemed to resonate with them.  I was pretty fortunate that Dr. Carrico and his brother Tim included me and Jill Spence in the planning process for the event and then served as our school’s ambassador for Rudy during the day.

“I am just very thankful and appreciative for the opportunity to have served as one of our school’s representatives for the day.  Rudy was the real deal and continues to inspire people all across the country and the world.  I consider myself lucky to have spent the day getting to know him and hearing about his incredible journey from small town schoolboy to motivational icon.”

The evening program was held at Clarion University’s Marwick Boyd Auditorium and followed by a Meet and Greet at Tippin Gymnasium.

(Rudy with area resident Chris Guntrum at Marwick-Boyd)

One of those attending the event at Marwick-Boyd was area resident Chris Guntrum, who said “Pretty great evening at CUP meeting Rudy Ruettiger “RUDY RUDY RUDY” one of my all-time favorite movies and true stories! It was an honor getting to hear his story and shake his hand. Truly a great person and couldn’t have been nicer to everyone who wanted to take a selfie or autograph! Of course, I’ve always been an autograph seeker.

“And yes, I agree he’s right up there for most famous ND football player! It was truly an honor meeting him. If there were only more athletes today like him!!”

Clarion University of Pennsylvania Athletic Director Wendy Snodgrass shared, “In regard to the event we were honored to co-host with Clarion Area in bringing Rudy to our campus and local community.

(L-R) CUP Athletic Director Wendy Snodgrass, Rudy and CUP Assistant Athletic Director D.J. Bevevino)

“It was a night filled with a message of inspiration, perseverance, and determination. I’m sure that his message of following your dreams and not being deterred no matter if the path that leads you to your goals was not the one that you had originally planned had an impact on our student-athletes in attendance as well as the community members that shared the experience with us. 

(Rudy with former Clarion Area Bobcats and Central Clarion Wildcats coach Larry Wiser and Clarion University Coach Raymond Monica at meet and greet at Tippin Gymnasium)

“I’d like to thank Dr. Carrico and Clarion Area for asking to be a part of this special event as well as Ben Jewart and Joe Lopez from our athletic staff and Rob Hoover from the university for all of their work in coordination and support for the event.”

Rudy visited with Redbank Valley High School on Thursday morning and afternoon. The event began with a presentation for the whole school, followed by a trivia game and Meet and Greet. Then Mr. Ruettiger visited with the athletes followed by lunch with the faculty. The day concluded with classroom visits.

(Redbank Valley image: (L-R) Redbank Valley athletes Joe Mansfield, Boo Shreckengost, Bryson Bain and Chris Marshall with Rudy)

Redbank Valley Football Coach Blane Gold shared about one his players, Boo Schreckengost, who epitomizes what Rudy is all about. “Neither Rudy or Boo really had any business being on a football field because of their size. Boo, who is actually smaller than Rudy, found a lot of success and carried us through our playoff run because of the amount of heart and belief he showed, which is actually the message that Rudy preaches.”

With the tornado warnings for New Bethlehem on Thursday morning, I asked Coach Gold if there was any duck and cover that took place during the event. “We had about a 40-minute duck and cover drill today with the warnings. Fortunately, it was after Rudy was done speaking.” Amazing how that worked out.

(Redbank Valley image: (L-R) Roddy Hartle (Principal), Rudy, Matt Darr (Athletic Director) Coach Blaine Gold)

Redbank Valley Principal Roddy Hartle had some fine things to say about the whole experience. “The Rudy event was a great experience for the staff and students of Redbank Valley.

“We showed the movie to the entire student body and, surprisingly, most had not seen it. It’s a true classic underdog story which focuses on young people creating goals and be willing to face any challenges that stand in the way of achieving that goal. This is a great message for our students, especially with the year we’ve had at Redbank Valley.

“It was a great experience and honor to meet Mr. Ruettiger in person and allow him to speak to our school.  We really appreciate the Carrico’s and Clarion high school for allowing us to be part of this opportunity.” 

A graphic that was shown in one of the videos played at Clarion Area High School (and I’m guessing at some of the other stops, on Wednesday and Thursday) Mr. Ruettiger shared mentioned “Rudy” prepared for 27 years for 27 seconds of playing time at Notre Dame. Oh, but what those 27 seconds led to. Mr. Ruettiger may very well be the most famous Fighting Irish football player ever. His story has touched, encouraged and inspired perhaps millions of people throughout the world.

(Thank you to Mr. Ruettiger and all those involved in bringing this great event to Clarion County!!!! Thank you to all who contributed comments and or pics!!)