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EFL Movie Study Guides (for English learners)

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EFL Movie Study Guide for: Rudy


This page has been updated slightly at


Story: Rudy presents the story of the only football player at prestigious Notre Dame Univ. ever carried off the field in celebration by his teammates. Rudy is small and lacks talent. Everyone laughs at his dream—except himself. Rudy makes up for his weaknesses with a determination to help every teammate perform at his best. What is keeping you from your dreams? Maybe this film will help you overcome it! Based on a true story. (1993; Tristar Pictures; starring Sean Aston; drama, college sports/life)

Setting: Mid 1970s, in the Midwest US. First we see Rudy’s childhood in an urban community (near Chicago, Illinois), then at high school, then a junior college, and finally at Notre Dame University (Indiana).

Note 1: You will hear two “college” songs during the movie. The first is the football “fight song” and the second is the “college theme song” or “alma mater.”

Note 2: One more thing: athletes and steel workers have a reputation for foul language, so you will hear it in this film (like most American films).


Outline/details of the story:

      Rudy was one of many children in a large Catholic family. His father worked in a steel mill, and loved to watch Notre Dame University football games on TV.

      Rudy attended a Catholic high school, so you will see that his teachers were all priests (神父). Rudy liked to daydream, especially about becoming a Notre Dame football player, but he did poorly in school. (Rudy had a learning disability called Dyslexia, but no one knew this until later.) His grades were not good enough to go to college, so after high school he worked in a steel mill with his father and brothers.

      When an accident killed his best friend, Rudy decided to follow his dream of becoming a football player at Notre Dame. The university’s retired president (Father Cavanaugh) befriended Rudy, and helped him enroll in a junior college. At the jr. college, a Teaching Assistant (named D-Bob) became Rudy’s friend, helped him to overcome his Dyslexia and taught him how to study (in exchange for Rudy helping D-Bob overcome shyness around women!).

      After trying (and failing) for a few years to transfer to Notre Dame, he finally gets to enroll. Everyone on the football team has a full scholarship, but the coach sees extraordinary “heart” in Rudy, in spite of his size and talent shortcomings. Now, practice after practice, Rudy gets trampled by some of the best players in college football.

      Does Rudy’s dream of playing football for Notre Dame come true? You will have to watch the movie to find out!


People and proper nouns:

Reuttiger: this is really Rudy’s family name; Rudy is a nickname (short for Reuttiger)

Pete: Rudy’s best friend at the steel mill

Frank: Rudy’s older brother, who never believes in Rudy’s dream

Father Cavanaugh: a priest at Notre Dame, who helps Rudy enter Holy Cross Junior College. (Father Cavanaugh was also a retired president of Notre Dame University!)

D-Bob: a Teaching Assistant (TA) at Holy Cross Junior College, and an honor student at Notre Dame University. D-Bob becomes Rudy’s best friend.

Fortune: a black man who is the head of the crew who take care of Notre Dame’s football stadium (he becomes Rudy’s boss and encourager)

Catholic: (天主教) the largest branch of the Christian religion. The Catholic church is particularly popular in Ireland, Italy, the Philippines, and South America.

“Father”: Out of respect, people do not call Catholic priests “Mr. Smith” but instead “Father Smith”

Notre Dame University: a top American university, located in South Bend, Indiana (a few hours from Chicago). Like Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Oxford, Cambridge, Peking University and most other leading universities, Notre Dame was started as a college to train Christian leaders. Although now you can study just about anything at Notre Dame (science, engineering, languages, the arts…), it is still run by the Catholic church, and thus many of the teachers and administrators are priests. The word “notre dame” is French, and means “our mother,” which is a reference to Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ.

“The Fighting Irish”: every football team has a nickname (绰号; 雅号). This is the nickname for Notre Dame’s football team. It reminds us that many American Catholics are the descendents of immigrants from Ireland—and the Irish people are known as good fighters!


Nouns/verbs (vocabulary):

*candles: (蜡烛) in the movie (as in many Catholic churches), lighting candles symbolizes praying

*descendents: (后代) you are a descendent of your parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, etc. Your children (and grandchildren, etc.) will be your descendents.

*dyslexia: a learning disability, in which your brain sometimes sees letters and numbers in the wrong order. This obviously makes it hard to study! (This obviously mkase ti hrad ot sutdy!)

incontrovertible facts: things that are certain and undeniable (without any question or doubt)

*junior college (or community college): an institution offering adult education courses on various subjects, including basic academic classes (similar to first-year university courses), vocational training (nursing, computer tech, engine repair), and hobby-related courses (photography, gardening). Although there are differences, a community college or technical/vocational school is similar to a junior college. These colleges can offer an Associate's Degree, normally after two years of prescribed study. In 2008, undergraduate tuition at Notre Dame University was over $36,000US per year, while tuition at a junior college would be about $5000. I think that in 1975, ND would have been about $1000, while Holy Cross Junior College would have been around $400 (I don’t know the true numbers, but you can see what I paid in 1982). (By the way, in 2005, Notre Dame admitted only 34 of the 85 students from Holy Cross who applied to transfer.)

*priest: (神父) a man with extensive Catholic religious training and an advanced education; priests serve as the leaders of Catholic churches, teachers/administrators in Catholic schools and universities, and as people who work for various charities to help the poor or others with social problems. The uniform of a priest is a black garment with a small white collar instead of a tie. Christian leaders are also sometimes called "Men of the Cloth."

*scholarship: (奖学金) when someone pays some of the college expenses for gifted students or athletes (a “full ride” or “full scholarship” means that someone pays ALL of your expenses, including tuition, housing, transportation and food)

scout team: football players who come to practice, but who never compete in a real game (they pretend to be the opposing side during practice, and thus get “beat up” a lot!)



“dressed out” (or “dressed”): allowed to wear a football uniform during a game. (Only “dressed” players can compete, though many only “ride the bench.”)

“ride the bench”: to sit on the bench (i.e., sidelines of the field), wearing a football uniform, hoping that the coach allows you to play during the game

 *“You’re about 90 short!”: someone gave this answer when Rudy tried to buy a football ticket for $10 (also called “ten bucks”); it means that the ticket costs $100 (Rudy’s $10 plus $90 more)

*“Here’s the deal”: it means: “These are the terms of our agreement” or “if you will do something, then I will do this…”

“nothing,” as when Fortune says “You're 5 foot nothin', 100 and nothin'.” This means “you are barely over 5 feet tall and barely weigh more than 100 pounds.” He uses “nothing” to exaggerate about Rudy’s small size, and to criticize his attitude.


Notes about American football

         Each game has two sides competing (in this case, from two universities). Each side has two teams (the “offense team” tries to score; the “defense team” tries to keep the other team from scoring). A team has 11 men, so each side needs 22 players. However, because the game is very demanding, a good coach rotates players on and off the field throughout the game. There are also special players needed at certain times (like those who can kick well). According to this movie, college rules say that a side can only have 60 players “dressed out” for each game, but good teams have more players than this at practice, particularly on the scout team. Since there are 60 “dressed” players and only 11 are on the field, 49 men “ride the bench” at any one time, and many almost never get to play at all.

         College football is a major source of pride and money for American universities. If your college team wins a lot, you are more likely to donate money to the university after you graduate. Notre Dame wins a lot, so every Saturday (for 10 weeks in the autumn), 60,000 people buy tickets to see the games in person (a ticket can cost from $10 to $400, or more). In addition, TV stations and advertisers pay a lot of money to the university when a game is broadcast on TV, but they only want to broadcast popular teams who usually win. All of this generates millions of dollars every year for universities. Therefore, there is great competition among universities to get the best high school football players to enroll at their school. To entice these great high school athletes, universities offer football scholarships. Ninety-five Notre Dame football players have “full scholarships,” even though college athletic rules allow only 60 men to “dress out” for each game—which means that in each game 35 football players sit in the crowd, having had ALL of their college expenses paid but not being allowed to compete! (There are also 10-15 scout team members—like Rudy—in the crowd every week.)


Sentences/dialogs from the movie: (see below the “discussion” section)



1. Why do people love to watch sports? With your partner, make a list of reasons.

2. What do you think of American football. Why do you think it is so popular in the US? Why isn’t it popular in other countries?

3. This movie is not really about “football”; what is it about? How would you tell a friend what the true “idea” behind this movie is?

4. See if you can explain why Rudy’s father and brother would not support Rudy’s dream. Is it easy or hard to hold to a dream without the support of your family? Explain your answer.

5. With your partner, make a list of the people who helped Rudy along the way. Now think about your own life. Tell your partner about someone who has helped you along the way.

6. Tell your partner one of your dreams, and what is in the way of you obtaining it. Suggest ways to help your partner achieve his/her dream.


Sentences/dialogs from the movie (mostly from

1.   Rudy (as a kid, quoting a speech from a famous ND coach): We're gonna go inside, we're gonna go outside, inside and outside. We're gonna get 'em on the run boys and once we get 'em on the run we're gonna keep 'em on the run. And then we're gonna go go go go go go and we're not gonna stop til we get across that goal line. This is a team they say is... is good, well I think we're better than them. They can't lick us, so what do you say men?

2.   [Pete gives Rudy a Notre Dame jacket for his birthday]

      Rudy: How does it look?

      Pete: You were born to wear that jacket!

      Rudy: You're the only one who ever took me serious, Pete.

      Pete: Well, you know what my dad always said: Having dreams is what makes life tolerable.

3.   Rudy’s dad [at the bus stop, after Pete dies and Rudy decides to go to Notre Dame]: You can take a couple of weeks off. Your grandfather saved all of his life to bring the family to this country. He got a good job in the stockyards. He had a nice little house in South Chicago. I was about 12. Somebody sold him on the idea he ought to move to the country and become a dairy farmer. Well, he buys some land and gets a couple hundred cows. Within five months, every one of those cows was dead with disease. It was the [period of the Great Economic] Depression. He couldn’t sell the land. There was no work. So one day, he took off. Didn’t come back [causing the family to split up]. Chasing a stupid dream causes nothing but you and everyone around you heartache. Notre Dame is for rich kids… great athletes. It’s not for us. You're a Ruettiger! There's nothing in the world wrong with being a Ruettiger!

4.   Rudy: Ever since I was a kid, I’ve wanted to go to school here. And ever since I was a kid, everyone said it couldn’t be done. My whole life, people have been telling me what I could do and couldn’t do. I’ve always listened to them, and believed in what they said. I don’t want to do that anymore.

      Father Cavanaugh: OK. Here’s the deal. Holy Cross Junior College is nearby. I can get you one semester there. You make [good] grades, you get another semester. Then maybe, with a high enough GPA, you might have a chance of getting into Notre Dame.

5. [Rudy sneaks into Notre Dame Stadium, so the groundskeeper yells at him]

      Fortune: Hey kid! You're not supposed to be here!

      Rudy: Hey this place is really something else, huh? Someday I'm gonna come out of that tunnel and I'm gonna run onto this field.

      Fortune: Well it ain't gonna be this day...

      Rudy: I'm here to play football for the Irish!

      Fortune: [Does] Coach Parseghian know about it?

      Rudy: No... not yet.

      Fortune: Well maybe you best tell him first...

6.   D-Bob: Are you learning stenography or something? Everything he's mouthing is in the goddamn book.

      Rudy: I gotta make an 'A' in this class.

      D-Bob: Just remember "Sitz im Leben" and it shouldn't be a problem.

7.   Rudy: I've just blown another year of eligibility! This entire year's been a waste!

      Fortune: You’ve got your head so far up your ass about that damn football team, you don't get the fact that you just got a year of top quality education! Waste? Don’t be wasting my time!

8.   [In a church, just before Rudy’s “last chance” to transfer into Notre Dame]

      Father Cavanaugh: You did a hell of a job, kid, chasing down your dream.

      Rudy: I don’t care what kind of job I did. If it doesn’t produce any results, it doesn’t mean anything.

      Father C: I think you’ll discover that it will.

      Rudy: Maybe I haven’t prayed enough.

      Father C: I’m sure that’s not the problem. Praying is something we do in our time. The answers come in God’s time.

      Rudy: Have I done everything I possible can? Can you help me?

      Father C: Son, in 35 years of religious studies, I’ve come up with only two, hard incontrovertible facts: there is a God, and I'm not Him.

9. Coach Warren [addressing players at the walk-on tryouts]: Let me tell it to you as clean as I can. We have 95 players here so accomplished as athletes in high school, we gave them full scholarships to the best football program in the country. NCAA regulations allow us to dress just 60 for home games, which means at least 35 scholarship players will be watching the games from the stands. So, if any of you has any fantasies about running out of that stadium tunnel with your gold helmet shining in the sun, you'd best leave them right here. Of you 15 dreamers out there, maybe we'll keep one or two. My job is to basically beat the shit out of you for the next five days, and whoever is still standing at the end, maybe we’ll use for our scout teams. You’ll be running the opposition’s plays, week in and week out. Your greatest value to us is, we don't care whether you get hurt. Our first teams are gonna pound on you like you're their worst enemies. Like what you hear so far? Any of you want to run home to Mama? Joe, they're all yours.

10.  Mateus [at practice, Rudy remains on the ground after being pummeled on a block by Mateus]: Hey, are you all right, man? Come on, get up.

      Coach Yonto: Ruettiger, get out!

      Rudy [springs up, refusing to be taken out]: I can do it, coach!

      Rudy [after the play is run again, but Mateus refuses to block Rudy. So Rudy confronts Mateus loudly]: What are you doing? I'm playing defense for Purdue!

      Coach Yonto: Mateus! [grabs his facemask] You ain't here to be no nanny in no kindergarten!

11.  Head Coach Ara Parseghian: What's your problem, O'Hare, what's your problem?

      Jamie O'Hara: [It’s the] Last practice of the season and this asshole thinks it's the Super Bowl!

      Parseghian: You just summed up your entire sorry career here in one sentence! If you had a tenth of the heart of Ruettiger, you could have made All-American! As it is, you just went from third team to the prep team! Get out of here!

12. Rudy: Coach, I’d  just like to say thank you for the opportunity of being part of the team.

      Coach Parseghian: Rudy, I never I thought I'd be saying this but it's been a pleasure. Now what can I do for you?

      Rudy: One of the many things I’ve learned this year is that no matter how hard I try, I’m never going to get above the prep team. But I've accepted the fact that God made some people to be football players and that I'm not one of them.

      Parseghian: I wish God would put your heart in some of my players’ bodies.

      Rudy: [laughs] Yeah. My father loves Notre Dame football more than anything else in the world. He doesn’t believe I’m on the team because he can’t see me at the sidelines during the games. Next year, my senior year, I’d love to be able to give him this gift: I’d really appreciate it if you would let me dress one game next season.

      Parseghian: Look, Rudy, the NCAA really hamstrings us with this 60 [player limit] rule. In certain positions we only have one backup and you know that every year we are competing for the national championship. Is this just for your father?

      Rudy: No, it’s for everyone who told me that being a Norte Dame Football player would be impossible. It’s for my brothers, the kids in my high school, the guys I worked with at the mill. They can't come to practice and see that I am part of the team.

      Parseghian: [sighs] Okay.

      Rudy: Okay?

      Parseghian: You deserve it. You will dress for one game next season.

      Rudy: [can barely hold in his excitement] Thank You Coach!

13. [D-Bob is accepted at Miami Law School, and is about to leave]

      Rudy: There’s no way I can thank you for everything you’ve done.

      D-Bob: You already have. Remember Elza, right? She's my girl now. She’s coming with me. Ain't that goddamn something?

      Elza: Dennis!

      D-Bob: I forgot. I’m not allowed to say "goddamn" no more. What's a lapsed Catholic to do?

      Rudy: Thanks for everything.

14.  Fortune: Hey, hey, hey, hey, hey what are you doing here? Don't you have practice?

      Rudy: Not anymore. I quit.

      Fortune: Oh, well since when are you the quitting kind?

      Rudy: I don't know I just don't see the point anymore.

      Fortune: So you didn't make the dress list, there are greater tragedies in the world.

      Rudy: I wanted to run out of that tunnel for my dad, to prove to everyone that I worked...

      Fortune: PROVE WHAT?

      Rudy: That I was somebody.

      Fortune: Oh you are so full of crap. You're 5 foot nothin', 100 and nothin', and you have barely a speck of athletic ability. And you hung in there with the best college football players in the land for 2 years. And you're also gonna walk out of here with a degree from the University of Notre Dame. In this lifetime, you don't have to prove nothin' to nobody except yourself. And after what you've gone through, if you haven't done that by now, it ain't gonna never happen. Now go on back. 

      Rudy: I'm sorry I never got you to see your first game in here.

      Fortune: Hell I've seen too many games in this Stadium.

      Rudy: I thought you said you never saw a game...

      Fortune: I've never seen a game from the stands.

      Rudy: You were a player?

      Fortune: I rode the Bench for two years. I thought I wasn't being played because of my color. I got filled up with a lot of attitude, so I quit. [There is] Still not a week goes by I don't regret it, and I guarantee a week won't go by in your life you won't regret walking out letting them get the best of you. Do you hear me clear enough?

15.  Roland Steele: I want Rudy to dress in my place Coach. He deserves it.

      Dan Devine: [laughs] Don't be ridiculous, Georgia Tech is one of the top offensive teams in the country. [Steele continues to stand and stare at the Devine] You are an All-American and our Captain, act like it!

      Steele: I believe I am. [he lays his football jersey down on Devine's desk and walks out; then a dozen other players do the same]

16. Rudy’s Dad [Upon entering Notre Dame Stadium]: This is the most beautiful sight these eyes have ever seen!

17. Coach Dan Devine [to the team, just before the last game of the season]: No one, and I mean no one, comes into our house and pushes us around.

18.  Steele: Rudy, are you ready, champ?

      Rudy: I've been ready for this my whole life!

      Steele: Then you take us out on the field.

      Coach: Alright, let’s go!

19. Coach Devine: You already know this but this is the most important game of your lives, no excuses do the work. Our lady of victory…  [all together] PRAY FOR US.

20.  D-Bob [when Rudy first steps onto the field]: He's so little!

21. “The most powerful thing you can give somebody is hope” (the real Rudy says this in a documentary—part of the DVD’s bonus material)



Rudy quiz (You can talk to friends about these after the movie)


1. Which statement best describes Rudy at the beginning of the film:
    A. Rudy lives in a wealthy family near South Bend, Indiana.
    B. Rudy is one of many children in a large Catholic family.
    C. Rudy’s father is a priest, so the whole family loves Notre Dame.

2. While he was growing up, Rudy’s teachers thought he
    A. daydreamed about playing football too much.
    B. would someday be a great scholar.
    C. should find help to overcome a learning disability called Dyslexia.

3. Rudy wanted to attend Notre Dame University because:
    A. all Catholic children want to go this Catholic university.
    B. it had one of the best college football teams in the USA.
    C. he wanted to be a priest someday.

4. What event (four years after finishing high school) finally got Rudy to go to college?
    A. Notre Dame University offered Rudy a full scholarship to play football there.
    B. A teacher named D-Bob taught Rudy how to overcome his Dyslexia (reading problem).
    C. An accident killed his best friend, and Rudy decided to follow his dream.

5. When he arrived in South Bend (early in the morning), he met
    A. an angry guard who told him to go back home.
    B. a kind priest who helped him enroll in a Junior College.
    C. his brother, who was already a football star in South Bend.

6. D-Bob helped Rudy learn how to study and overcome his Dyslexia, and in exchange Rudy:
    A. paid D-Bob a fee of $5 per hour, since this was the normal fee for a tutor.
    B. gave D-Bob free tickets to see Notre Dame football games every month.
    C. helped D-Bob to find dates and to overcome shyness around women.

7. Like Harvard, Yale, Oxford, Cambridge and most other leading universities, Notre Dame University:
    A. started as a college to train Christian leaders.
    B. offers many scholarships to play football.
    C. is famous as a great place to study law.

8. The word “notre dame” means:
    A. “top university” in Irish.
    B. “notable woman” in Latin, and refers to the wife of a former king.
    C. “our mother” in French, and refers to the mother of Jesus.

9. Fortune, the black man who was in charge of maintenance at the university football stadium:
    A. had never seen a football game, even though he worked in a football stadium.
    B. gave Rudy a place to live in exchange for Rudy’s help at the stadium.
    C. helped Rudy understand the things that are really important in life, like getting an education and not quitting.

10. One of the DVD extras is an interview with the real Rudy. Which of the following statements do you think he made:
    A. “Chasing a stupid dream causes nothing but heartache.”
    B. “The most powerful thing you can give somebody is hope.”
    C. “I wish I could have played a Hobbit in the movie Lord of the Rings.”


(The answers are at the bottom of the Narnia web page.)

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This resource was created for our students under our understanding of "fair use" for educational resources. 

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© 2007 Michael Krigline, all rights reserved. As far as I am concerned, people are allowed to print/copy it for personal or classroom use.

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