Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Out-Rudying Rudy

Rudy, the 1993 David Ansen film starring Sean Astin as everybody's favorite walk-on scrub, is basically required viewing for any Notre Dame fan. We all know the storyline by heart: scrawny Daniel "Rudy" Ruettiger, told time after time he's too small, too slow, too stupid to amount to anything beats back the odds to win admission to Notre Dame and becoming an inglorious tackling dummy for Ara Parseghian's Fighting Irish. Overcoming everything with pure grit and determination, Rudy wins the respect of the Irish players and coaches, finally getting into a game with 27 seconds left in the home finale of the 1974 season. What a story.

Now, what if I were to tell you that you could have that life-long dream fulfilled and be a vital cog in the special teams unit currently ranked 3rd best in country at stopping kick returns, 8th best against punt returns? Is that something you might be interested in?

Well then here once more, the man who needs no introduction, winner of Section 29's prestigious Sean Calloway Award for 2007, from Orland Park, Illinois, #37...Mike Anello!

Anello won plaudits last year for his scrappiness, and further recognition early this season for completing the journey from walk-on ex-wrestler to scholarship special teams gunner. But if last season he was merely an extra who got picked out to deliver a few lines, his play this year has him receiving the all-out headliner treatment. Doing a quick Google News search for "Mike Anello" found the following write-ups:
If he hadn't before, Mike Anello has most definitely arrived now, with a niche carved out for himself that would make a lot of special teams coaches across America envious. His height (listed as 5'9 in the Irish program) and weight (listed, again emphasis on listed, as 170 pounds) hardly make him a candidate to be dishing out hits against some of the quickest and most agile return men around. Fortunately for Anello he hit the jackpot by playing with all those buzzwords that every fan/coach is looking for - heart, emotion, desire, instinct, fire, intensity, and grit. When a guy who not only looks like the water boy but has been mistaken for such at his own stadium (just randomly click on any of the above articles, that particular anecdote is in practically all of them) is blowing past your return unit and either recovering or causing fumbles at will, it tells who's actually giving 110% out there on the field. Every team in America is out there looking for a Mike Anello, and the Irish are one of the lucky teams that have one.

Just to cap off the story, here's the thoughts of the original version on Rudy 2.0, from the Sun-Times article linked above:
Rudy Ruettiger has a remedy for what ails Notre Dame's football program. His name is Mike Anello.

''Emotion. That's what's missing,'' said the former Notre Dame walk-on who was the inspiration for the movie ''Rudy.'' ''That's what Anello has. He has that spirit, that heart. He is all passion. I wonder what you could do with a whole team of Anellos.''

Earlier this season, Weis rewarded Anello -- whom he describes as being ''5-foot-2'' and weighing ''12 pounds'' -- with a scholarship. Not long after, Anello was stopped outside Notre Dame Stadium by security and told the entrance he was attempting to use was for ''players only.''

''If people don't know I play football, I don't bother telling them,'' he said. ''They wouldn't believe me anyway.''

Actually, there is a growing legion of believers. Count Ruettiger among them.

''Fans want that type of spirit, emotion and passion,'' he said. ''That's what the kid stands for. It gives them hope."


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