Lessons in Service from Rudy

unsplash-logoMay Lawrence

It doesn’t matter how many times I’ve watched Rudy since it came out in 1993, I still cry like a baby in all the same parts. I’m still jumping out of the couch and cheering at the end of the movie as Rudy is carried off the field and my bucket of ‘follow your dreams’-juice is refilled every time I watch. 

This time I was paying a different type of attention to the movie. It aired on this first Sunday facing the lockdown that was sure to come any minute now. State after state was reacting and taking strides to stop the spread of this fucking Corona Virus. Florida was bound to follow suit.

Whatever channel was on was playing positive movie after positive movie that day (much needed) and Rudy was one of them. It was about a quarter of the way in when I sat down to enjoy.

The importance of following your dream was evident, as it has always been – he wanted more than anything to play football for the Fighting Irish.

Throughout the entire movie, it also highlighted the importance of determination and perseverance in the face of naysayers and non-believers to push through any desire to quit.

The importance of knowing your WHY was there, as it has always been. He simply wanted to give his father the gift of seeing his son in uniform, part of the team.  His dream was fueled by his desire to honor his father in this way. The fact that he got in the game, sacked the quarter back on the last play, was carried off the field while heroic “Rudy” chants made their way through the entire stadium was an added bonus – a HUGE added bonus.

Everything that I’d seen before, I’d noticed again on this last viewing.  But something else stood  out this time: Rudy’s willingness to be of service above everything else. It’s a message that can be easily missed under all the other ‘huge’ messages, but it’s probably one of the most important messages in the movie.

You see, Rudy had his dream clearly defined, but he loved his team above it all. Rudy was the team player of all team players. Sure, he was frustrated to not dress for the game, game after game. Despite this, he always had a commitment to serving his team.  His dedication to his team came through with every bruise, scratch and sore limb he had after practice. Rudy gave it his all, every practice, every play. He gave it his all for the good of his team.

Then there was one scene that hadn’t caught my attention before. Rudy is walking through the parking lot after a practice when he runs into a few of the players. Mateus, one of the meatheads on the team apologizes to Rudy, saying,

“Hey man, I just want to say sorry about what I said at practice.” 

Rudy: “Don’t be sorry.”

Mateus: “Do you understand that if you don’t cool it out there, you’re going to get yourself


Rudy: “If I cool it out there, then I won’t be helping you guys win next week’s game. Got it?”

That’s the epitome of service.  While Rudy kept his vision on his dream of dressing at least to be in the sidelines for one game before graduation, his commitment was to being of service to his team to make sure his team was at their best.  And did he ever serve.    

In preparation for the last game of the season (and Rudy’s college career), his teammates showed up for him. They showed their appreciation for his service and commitment to their constant improvement in the best possible way. Mateus was first, coming to the coach, turning in his jersey asking him to let Rudy play in his stead. The coach was dumbfounded. One by one, each of the other players came and did the same thing.  The coach had no choice but to dress Rudy and the rest is history. 

Rudy was clear on his dream, but the accomplishment of his dream was between him and his coach.  What he didn’t expect was how his dedication to serve his team would come to be what made his dream (and his Dad’s dream) come true.  He wasn’t serving them for what he would get in return, he was serving because he wanted to bring out the best in them.  But, because the law is the law, it always comes back with amazing returns.

Most of what we can learn from the story of a dreamer in Rudy seems obvious. But there’s also a great lesson in service, adding value, and being generous for their own sake. We’re not keeping score. We’re not sitting around waiting for when it’s going to come back; we’re simply serving.  And I promise, it will come back to you in ways you’d never imagined.

These are unprecedented times, and a great time for us to shine in our generosity. Be there for others, freely share your expertise, do what you can to bring out the best in everyone you come in contact with and be a source of light to help people shine through these times. 

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