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29906170001_5528885839001_5528856944001-vsThe real “Rudy” has been public about remembering coach Ara Parseghian, who passed away on Wednesday at 94.

“He could have shot down all my dreams,” Daniel “Rudy” Ruettiger told USA TODAY Sports of Parseghian, the former Notre Dame coach.

Ruettiger’s story about his time with the Notre Dame football team was the basis of the popular 1993 film simply titled “Rudy.”

“He could have said, ‘Son, you’re too old. You have been in the Navy six years. We don’t take junior walk-ons.’ That would have destroyed me,” Ruettiger said.

But Parseghian didn’t crush Ruettiger’s dream of playing football for the Irish. Instead, he eventually gave Ruettiger a position on the scout team.

“He recognized something in people, especially their character and heart,” Ruettiger said. “Years later, I heard that he walked into a coaches’ meeting and told the coaches about our first meeting. Ara told them, ‘He was just one of those kids you couldn’t say no to.”

With a career record of 170-58-6, Parseghian remains one of the best coaches in both Northwestern and Notre Dame history. While he is most famous for his time at Notre Dame, his eight years at Northwestern helped catapult him to that job.

Parseghian turned Northwestern into a powerhouse, despite it having struggled much through their history. The team achieved its only No. 1 ranking ever in 1962, and it had some stunning results during Parseghian’s tenure: A 4-0 record against Notre Dame, a 3-1 record against Ohio State and a 45-13 win over No. 1 Oklahoma.

Frustrated with the lack of resources at Northwestern, Parseghian left for Notre Dame, where he surpassed even his success at Northwestern. He went 95-17-4 in 11 seasons with the Irish, including two national championships and wins in the Cotton, Sugar and Orange bowls.

 After leaving Notre Dame, Parseghian became a college football commentator and devoted his life to raising money for medical research. The Ara Parseghian Medical Research Foundation raises money to find a cure for Niemann-Pick Disease, which three of his grandchildren have died from.

Even as he left college football professionally, Parseghian lived near South Bend and remained a fan the rest of his life.

Ruettiger called Parseghian a father figure for the entire team. “He gets respect from Notre Dame fans, at least the ones who know what he accomplished,” Ruettiger said.

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