Coaching Football's "Little Things"

Developing a Consistently Successful Football Program

“Rudy!”

Posted by admin July - 3 - 2018 - Tuesday

I ran into a former player over the weekend. We had a great time reminiscing about the “good old days!” He brought up something that I’d forgotten about till he mentioned it. I’m not sure if this idea is even in my book, 101 Little Things That Can Make a BIG Difference. It’s worth repeating even if it is!

Most of you reading this have probably watched the movie Rudy. The story of the walk-on to the Notre Dame football team who gets to go in for 1 play in the last game of his senior year… and proceeds to sack the QB on the game’s last play! The players carry him off the field on their shoulders. That picture inspired me to consider having our own “Rudy Moment” for our football team. What developed provided a lasting memory for one special person.

That next season at our last game, I selected one of our offensive linemen to move to running back for one play! He practiced it a couple of times each day. On Friday night, late in the 4th quarter, I sent him on the field at fullback to run his play. The team knew what was coming and the word had gotten out to our fans… so everyone got really excited as the offense broke the huddle. As it happened, there were a couple of years that we gave the ball to the “designated lineman/fullback” down on the goal line. He scored! Another time, I sent him in on the extra point. We went for 2 and he scored. That just added to that young man’s joy— knowing that an O lineman had a chance to score points!

The one that topped them all, though, was the year we had a real “Rudy Moment!” We had a Team Manager who had been with us for 4 years. He loved football but was too small to play. So, he chose to stay involved by being a manager. He was very smart and very responsible. He literally became my “right hand man.” I realized as we entered our last week that it would be pretty cool if we could “suit him up” and let him play one play. I put him at Defensive End (just like Rudy) and turned him loose! To top it off, when the team found out on Monday that our “Rudy” would be dressing out on Friday night, they went nuts!

Game night approached and I helped “Rudy” find some pads that fit. When the team burst onto the field before the game, “Rudy” was right up front. As the clock ticked down to end the game, I could sense the tension and excitement building. We went on defense with about a minute left and I sent “Rudy” onto the field with the 2nd defense. The stadium erupted! I was just praying that he wouldn’t get hurt.

They snapped the ball; “Rudy” rushed across the line. They faked a run and the QB bootlegged away… right into the waiting arms of our “Rudy.” He got the sack— just like in the movie! I couldn’t believe it! WOW!!! The team mobbed him. As the game ended, they hoisted our “Rudy” up on their shoulders and carried him to the sideline so we could line up to go shake hands.

THAT’S the story that this former player shared. It was one of the highlights of his high school career! Those are the kind of lasting memories I’d hoped to leave for my players. We won a lot of games and had some great times. But, what this former player wanted to talk about was our “Rudy Moment.”

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