Ruettiger's Notre Dame teammates swept him up onto their shoulders just moments after he sacked Allen, then the Georgia Tech quarterback, in the waning seconds of a 24-3 Irish win in November, 1975.

A walk-on football player accomplishing his life-long dream, Ruettiger parlayed that into an inspirational movie, "Rudy." Ruettiger overcame numerous odds to earn that one chance play and the movie tells his story.

On Tuesday afternoon, just hours before the fourth annual Celebration of Sports Excellence honoring the Bi-City's best athletes, the two Rudys met for the first time. Ruettiger's last-second tackle of Allen on a desperation pass play didn't exactly count.

When they met, Allen didn't tackle Ruettiger. Actually, Allen's first thoughts when meeting Ruettiger was "Finally, I get to meet my hero," he said. The men shook hands and embraced, then relived their shared moment.

Had they not met on Tuesday with Ruettiger in town as the guest speaker for the CSE Allen had another plan. He was going to write Oprah Winfrey and tell her that he was "the other Rudy."

Watching the tall, athletic-looking Allen, who still looks as if he can play the game, towering almost a foot over Ruettiger, it's hard to picture, and conceive, what took place at Notre Dame's stadium 31 years ago.

Allen, who serves as the human resources director at Char-Broil and has church ministries working with youth and former prisoners, says he never could figure out why the Notre Dame crowd began chanting his name that November afternoon. The Irish defense hounded him throughout the game, and he said his team was "beaten and just ready to get back to Atlanta, Georgia."

Following the game, Ruettiger left the field on the shoulders of his teammates, while Allen walked away with his Tech teammates. They never saw each other again until Tuesday.

"This is exciting," Ruettiger said. "God has a purpose for this. He also has a valued life. He's doing something good. That is what makes me excited meeting a guy with character like that. He's touching the souls of people and this movie is touching people."

That one moment united two men from different backgrounds but with similar convictions. Ruettiger overcame a learning disability just to get into Notre Dame. Even after he experienced the moment he had dreamed of, Ruettiger didn't stop dreaming.

A chance comment by a sports writer following the game that plays like that "happened only in Hollywood," led Ruettiger to believe his story should be told in film. The two years he served as a scout teamer at Notre Dame, along with years as an insurance salesman, prepared him for the long, arduous task of having his story made into a film.

"It was a special moment at a special time," Ruettiger said. "It was a great game, I got to play in it, the way it ended. But who would want to see a movie of a guy making a tackle. One tackle. I got caught up in the journey, how did I get there? That's how it became a movie."

That proved to be a journey as well. Ruettiger told his idea to everyone he met, figuring somewhere down the line, someone would realize the potential. Through Ruettiger's determination, he finally got the writer-director team of Angelo Pizzo and David Anspaugh on board. They wrote and directed "Hoosiers." Ruettiger sports 10 diamonds on his ring from Notre Dame, representing the amount of time it took to get the movie made.

Now, the 1993 classic ranks as one of the most inspirational movies of the century. The American Film Institute has a CBS show which airs tonight and lists its top inspirational movies. "Rudy" was in the print advertisement with nine other films and could well be in the Top 10.

"Everything is a journey," Ruettiger said. "It just doesn't happen. You've got to keep moving toward the success of things. You have to market yourself. There's nobody that's going to knock on your door and say, 'Do you want to be successful?' I'm always knocking."

Ruettiger talked about the difficulties facing college walk-on athletes, who often aren't considered part of the team. Even eating meals with the team and dressing with scholarship players was considered a big deal. He wasn't about to let his moment pass him by.

Allen's life story actually parallels Ruettiger's in terms of overcoming obstacles. Allen had the chance to play professional football before diabetes-related problems cut that short. He dealt with being a minority football player in the 60s and 70s.

"I don't think at that time society had really accepted minorities in that role," Allen said. "Going to Georgia Tech, being one of the first minority athletes there, the pressures of competing and going to school. There were many challenges. The challenges become opportunities.

"It's all in how you face it. You have to face it head-on and realize you're going to have some failures. But we make lemonade from lemons. It's all in how you approach it. I always approach it in a can-do attitude."

"You find yourself in the midst of the movie wiping tears," Allen said. "You see what he had to endure. You realize his triumph. It catches you because you see you really can achieve what you set out to achieve if you do the right thing and you work hard."

"To be successful doesn't mean you have to be on top," Allen said. "This gives us a platform. I was in the game. I had an opportunity. You won't win every play, but you may be one play away from success. You've got to seize the moment at the moment."

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