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Thousands enjoy “Rudy” on field where it happened

| Monday, August 28, 2017

On Friday night, thousands of students and community members watched as a “five foot nothing, hundred and nothing” character slipped through a poorly secured gate and into the North Tunnel of Notre Dame Stadium. As he emerged from the tunnel, a wide expanse of green spread before him, anchored by two goalposts. Rows of bleachers ascended to the sky. The diminutive character, dwarfed by the arena that expanded around him, walked awestruck onto the field he was seeing in person for the first time.

Previously, this scene was a dramatization that existed only in the film “Rudy.” Yet on Friday night, that changed. Thousands of moviegoers relived the title character’s experience and viewed events from his vantage point as they attended Flick on the Field, a screening of the iconic Notre Dame movie on the stadium’s new video board.

For co-directors of student life on the executive cabinet of student government, Caitlin Murphy and Tim O’Connell, the event was a capstone to several months of planning and coordination between the administration and various student groups.

“We were approached about the idea by a couple of people our first few weeks,” O’Connell said. “We started to push it up in the next few weeks to vice president for campus events and security Mike Seamon, who immediately brought in higher ups in the administration.”

According to Murphy, collaboration was key.

“Intense planning started last week,” Murphy said. “Casey St. Aubin with the Division of Student Affairs was integral in planning the event.”

Most of the planning was handled by the administration and happened over the summer, Murphy said. He said he and O’Connell both envisioned an event reminiscent of last year’s presidential debate watch on South Quad.

In creating the event, Murphy said she wanted to take advantage of the stadium’s new facilities.

“The jumbotron is brand new, and we asked, ‘how can we use it to create a spectacular student event?’” Murphy said. “There was also no football game this weekend, so we thought it would be a good event to hype up football to the freshmen.”

According to O’Connell, the event provided a bonding opportunity for new students.

“The date was targeted for freshmen,” O’Connell said. “We wanted to make sure they had something Notre Dame related to do on their first Friday night here,” O’Connell said.

Murphy said Notre Dame Security Police (NDSP) and stadium ushers were using the event as a dry run for game day security protocol.

The field was packed with groups of students, some of whom were seeing “Rudy” for the first time. Others were simply excited to be on the field.

“I’ve never seen the movie before, and I feel like you kind of have to,” freshman Charlotte Schmidt said. “It’s even more cool to see it with everyone from the school.”

“I think it’s awesome that they’re having this event on the field,” senior Zach Myszka said.

For many students, the screening marked their first experience with the renovated stadium.

“I really wanted to see the new addition to the field,” freshman Caroline O’Callaghan said. “I felt like it would be cool to sit on the field and watch the movie.”

The movie was shown on the very field which takes a center stage throughout the film. O’Connell described the sensation of watching the stadium scenes as “stadium-ception.”

With a large turnout, there was an undeniable sense of community amongst the attendees. Sophomore Alice Felker explained that this aspect of the event was what drew her to attend.

“It’s a big community builder,” she said. “A lot of the student body came out to celebrate Notre Dame and be on the field.”

The film was marked with several instances of cheering from the assembled crowd. During one sequence that featured the “Notre Dame Victory March,” the student body clapped as it would during a football game. During the movie’s final moments, as the on-screen student body began to chant “Rudy! Rudy!” some of its real-life counterparts joined in. But the loudest ovation of the evening came when Rudy, after being rejected from Notre Dame three times, was finally admitted to the University.

“When Rudy got his acceptance letter and everyone clapped, that was really special,” Murphy said. “I think we all felt the same way when we got our letters and just bringing that community together was a great moment.”

Murphy said it was “very touching” knowing that they had created such a special experience.

O’Connell said one of the purposes of this event was to introduce students to the new Duncan Student Center — part of which is due to open in several weeks. Nevertheless, the two said that the event represented the best of Notre Dame.

“We’d definitely like to thank all of those who helped us,” O’Connell said. “We’re not going to pretend we did this by ourselves or could do it by ourselves.”

Murphy said she echoes those sentiments.

“We’re very thankful to everyone who worked the event,” Murphy said. “This really was an event that exemplified the spirit of the Notre Dame community.”

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