“RUDY! RUDY! RUDY!” The Notre Dame sideline begins to chant, and almost immediately, you can hear the muffled chant coming from the far reaches of the stadium.
A longshot and the obvious underdog, Rudy Ruetigger runs onto the football field for the final play of the game. After striving for this his entire life, he finally gets his chance to play in a college game. As “RUDY” chants continue in the background, the ball is hiked, and Rudy sacks the quarterback to end the game. The entire stadium is filled with excitement and Rudy is carried off the field by his teammates.
The movie Rudy is like many of the great sports movies today: the story of an underdog making it to the big league. Although movies like this are numerous, the reality of this actually happening is very small. The odds for young athletes going pro are just as dismal. In fact, the NCAA reported in 2005 that less than 1 percent of all high school athletes will ever play professionally – not to mention that the vast majority won’t even continue to play in college.
So what does it take to be like Rudy and play a sport in college?
“When I was a sophomore, I realized that I had the potential to run in college,” said senior Andrea Kelsey. “To prepare, I made sure to stay focused and make it my goal to perform to the best of my abilities at every meet.”
Kelsey signed her National Letter of Intent on Feb. 4 alongside senior Sarah VonderBrink. Kelsey will be attending Wofford College in Spartanburg, S.C. At the NCAA Division 1 school, she will be running cross country and indoor and outdoor track. VonderBrink will attend Bowling Green State University on a full-ride scholarship for soccer.
Senior Marc Pedro also worked hard to get the chance to play college football. “I work out almost every day and I had to prepare myself mentally to play before every game,” said Pedro, who will be playing football at the University of Akron next year.
Future Ball State University student and tennis player Lauren Pickrel also worked hard to accomplish her goal. “I have always wanted to play a college sport. It has been my ultimate goal,” she said. “I prepared myself by playing my best each season and working hard during the off-season.”
Joining the group of future college athletes is senior Ricky Brown, who will attend Wright State University next year as a member of the bowling team. “I decided I wanted to bowl in college last year, but I didn’t think I would be good enough because this is only my third year,” he said.
Although Brown didn’t have experience on his side, most of the other college-bound athletes did.
Senior Kylie Orr has been playing volleyball year-round for five years. Orr will be attending Rutgers University in New Jersey next year on a full-ride scholarship. “I love playing volleyball,” she said. “And I wanted to play at the next level.”
Senior Katie Madewell also has a lot of experience when it comes to volleyball. She said that practice and playing competitively since the seventh grade helped her get her full-ride scholarship to the University of Findlay.
“I wanted to play at the college level because I have played since the seventh grade and I couldn’t stand not being able to continue into college,” Madewell said.
Madewell also had some advice for those who want to play a sport in college. “Get started in the recruiting process early,” she said. “Don’t wait until the last minute or you will get stressed to the max.”
Like Madewell, many of the other college-bound students had advice for up-and-coming athletes. For example, Kelsey recommends getting help from your coach.
“Talk to your coach right away about your goals. They can help with contacting college coaches,” Kelsey said. “Unless you’re the best athlete in the nation, you have to put yourself out there to get recruited.”
VonderBrink agreed with this thought. “College coaches won’t find you; you need to get yourself noticed,” she said.
Pedro also had a tip about how to spend your time at Fairmont. “The seasons go really fast. Make sure you try everything you can or else you will regret it in the long run,” he said.
More advice for underclassmen was given by Pickrel. “The advice I have for underclassmen who want to play in college is to never give up on your dreams and desires,” she said. “Keep working hard and good things will come to you.”