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In the movie, :
Daniel "Rudy" Ruettiger (Sean Astin) grew up dreaming of playing football at the University of Notre Dame. While achieving some success with his local high school football team, Ruettiger lacked the grades and money to attend Notre Dame, and talent and physical size (Ruettiger was only 5' 6" and 165 pounds) to play football for the Fighting Irish. Instead, he takes a job at the local steel mill where his father Daniel Ruettiger Sr. (Ned Beatty) (a huge Notre Dame football fan) works and prepares to settle down.
When his best friend Pete is killed in an explosion at the mill, Rudy decides to follow his dream of attending Notre Dame and playing college football for the Fighting Irish, and leaves for Notre Dame, against his father's warning that "Ruettigers don't belong at Notre Dame." Ruettiger fails to get admitted to Notre Dame, and instead goes to a small junior college, Holy Cross College hoping to qualify for a transfer to the university.
During his final semester of eligibility transfer, he is granted admission to Notre Dame. After walking onto football practice tryouts, Ruettiger convinces coach Ara Parseghian (Jason Miller) to give him a spot on the football practice team, where Rudy exhibits more drive and desire than some of his big-name varsity teammates.
Upon Dan Devine's installation as head coach, Ruettiger fears he will lose the chance to dress for a home game, an arrangement he had with Parseghian. Late in the season of 1975, his teammates, lead by team captain and All-American Roland Steele, rise to his defense, demanding to Devine that Rudy be allowed to suit up in their place (by throwing down their jerseys, one at a time, on top of Devine's desk) for the final game of the season.
In the penultimate play of that game, Coach Devine is persuaded to insert Rudy (after all the players and later the fans chanted “Rudy… Rudy… Rudy…”) who sacks the opposing quarterback to end the game on the subsequent play. Rudy is carried off the field by his teammates, the last Notre Dame player to have such a distinction.