Rudy Ruettiger (Sean Aston) grows up in a Catholic, working class family that loves Notre Dame football. He does not have the grades, the size or the talent to get into his beloved school so he follows his brothers and father into work at the steel plant. After his twenty-second birthday his best friend Pete (Christoper Reed) who always believed in him dies in an accident. Rudy then realizes that it is now or never to follow his life-long dream to play for the Fighting Irish. Despite fear of failure from his father (Ned Beatty) and girlfriend (Lily Taylor) he leaves to pursue his goal.
Showing up is not enough to get him into the university, so with the encouragement of a priest (Robert Prosky), he enrolls in Holy Cross Junior College. There he gets help from a tutor (Jon Favreau) who helps him deal with his reading disability and finally get good grades. He works on the maintenance crew (Charles S. Dutton). Finally, Rudy gets accepted and upon transferring in to the school, he gets a chance as a "tackling dummy" for the team for two years. Encouraged by his persistence and spunk, Rudy inspires the team and is allowed to dress for one game by the coach (Jason Miller), where he is triumphantly carried off the field by his fellow teammates. The story is based on the life of Daniel "Rudy" Ruettiger.