Sequels are a big part of Hollywood. But for every amazing sequel like The Godfather Part II comes 10 horrendous flops that somehow got the go-ahead — we’re looking at you, Speed 2: Cruise Control. Each week, Poor Scholars pitches a movie sequel that will (likely) never be made. This week, Poor Scholars’ Scott Phillips concocts a sequel for the heartwarming sports tale Rudy.
Rudy is one of the most iconic sports movies of all-time, especially if you have ties to the Midwest like I do. If you don’t know the (mostly) true premise of the film, Rudy Ruettiger is an underdog from Joliet, Illinois that dreams of playing football at Notre Dame and finally makes the team as a non-scholarship walk-on after spending a few years at a junior college. Rudy finally dresses for the final game of his senior season so his family — full of doubters, including earlier in the movie when Rudy’s fiancée leaves him for one of his brothers — can see him in uniform after his teammates famously stand up for him. Rudy finally gets his chance on the game’s final play, sacks the Georgia Tech quarterback, and is carried off the field by his teammates as men across America wept on the inside.
The Sequel: Rudy 2
Tagline: “When people say dreams don’t come true, send them to coach Rudy.”
Plot: Rudy 2 is set in the present as Rudy Ruettiger (played once again by Sean Astin, who is tired of being a hobbit and happily accepts the role) is now an assistant football coach at Notre Dame after once again working his way up the coaching ranks to make it at his dream school. Rudy is the special teams coach, and also does some recruiting, as he’s been an assistant coach for the Irish for five years under the new powerhouse regime of head coach Vince O’Leary (played by Jon Hamm).
Meanwhile, Rudy has an underdog nephew, Frank Ruettiger Jr., (played by Jeremy Allen White of Shameless; and find me a better nephew for Rudy, I dare you) that lives on the South Side of Chicago and is a star high school linebacker in Chicago’s Catholic League. Of course, Frank Jr. is undersized, just like his uncle, and only getting Division III looks for football. But instead of being excited about continuing his football career at Augustana College, Frank Jr. starts asking his uncle Rudy about walking on and being a member of Notre Dame’s practice squad.
Rudy, seeing that Frank Jr. is completely serious and willing to put in the work, gives his nephew a shot after Coach O’Leary gives his blessing. Frank Jr. is surrounded by blue-chip recruits, but quickly earns the respect of his teammates by showing up to every offseason conditioning workout and giving 110%, even while battling a lingering left knee injury that often leaves Frank Jr. in excruciating pain.
The January after his junior season, it all comes crashing down for Frank Jr. as he tears his ACL in his left knee. By this point, Frank has developed a serious relationship with his (not fake) girlfriend (played by Martha MacIsaac) and contemplates hanging up his cleats to pursue a normal life. But before Frank hangs it up for good, his uncle Rudy walks with the crutches-confined Frank Jr. around Notre Dame’s campus with him talking about his future. Even this talk doesn’t persuade Frank Jr. to continue.
After a weekend of thinking, Frank Jr. finally decides he’s finished with his football career. As Frank Jr. goes into the training facility early on Monday morning to receive treatment and begin rehab on his knee, he is greeted by a few of his teammates, who attempt to lift his spirits and talk as if he’s returning to practice once the season begins eight months later. Frank Jr. is mum on his return, but continues to rehab his knee.
After two months of rehabbing, working and getting support from a few of his teammates, Frank Jr. is stunned one day when he shows up for his rehab at 9 a.m. on a Saturday morning, and the whole team, led by All-American cornerback Wesley Wallace (played by Fred Tolliver Jr.) is going through a very rigorous, but optional, conditioning drill.
The team sees Frank Jr. enter the room and each and every member of the team comes up to Frank Jr., giving him support and asking when he was going to return to the field. Frank Jr. is touched by the gesture and learns from the team physician (played by Richard Jenkins) that Wallace planned the gesture to motivate his return.
Frank Jr. decides to give his senior season a shot, if his knee will let him. The Irish start the season red-hot, winning their first 12 games and advancing to the BCS National Championship game where they face Texas (coached by James Caan). Frank Jr. is cleared to return to practice in November and begins working with the special teams. Frank Jr. often works on kickoffs, and onside kicks, in case the team is short a few bodies.
The title game finally arrives and facing a rash of injuries and suspensions, Notre Dame is forced to dress Frank Jr. in an emergency pinch. Frank Jr. doesn’t expect to play, but is excited to dress for the first time in his career, and his entire family has flown to Pasadena to watch his final game while Notre Dame tries to capture its first national title under Coach O’Leary after falling short the previous few seasons.
Texas begins to run away with the game, leading by 17 in the second half, but Notre Dame rallies and is able to cut the lead to 3 with 24 seconds left. Rudy approaches Frank Jr. on the sideline, and facing a sure onside kick, tells Frank Jr. he is going to be a gunner on the play with the Notre Dame defense gassed and depleted.
“Don’t play the ball; play the man and pop him!” Rudy yells to Frank Jr., on the sidelines. Frank Jr. is scared out of his mind and the crowd is roaring as he enters the field for the kick.
The onside kick goes into the air, and with the ball lingering in the lights, Frank Jr. never looks for the ball as he watches the eyes of the Texas hands team. Noticing that one Texas player is loading up to jump, and presumably go for the ball, Frank Jr. lowers his shoulder pads and levels the Texas player as the ball reaches him, creating a fumble that is recovered by the Irish, giving them one last chance.
After a 1o-yard out to give them some more yards, Notre Dame must attempt a Hail Mary, as they are out of timeouts. Watching from the sidelines, Frank Jr. is pulling his hair in anticipation of the final play. The final play goes up and Notre Dame catches the Hail Mary for the touchdown, the win, and the National Championship.
Frank Jr. and his teammates storm the field and uncle Rudy finds his nephew as the two embrace. Frank Jr., being a senior, is carried off the field along with Coach O’Leary and a few other seniors as the movie comes to a close.
Just like Hollywood intended.