It’s going to be hard for any local high school football team to top who Pasadena Poly had this week for a motivational speaker.
On Tuesday night, the Panthers were treated to a speech by Rudy Ruettiger, the subject of the classic movie “Rudy” released in 1993 about a undersized football player who realized his dream of playing college football at Notre Dame.
“It was great,” Pasadena Poly head coach Chris Schmoke said of the moment. “We showed the movie to the kids on Monday night just to make sure they knew who he was. At first, I thought ‘who hasn’t seen Rudy?’ But then again I’ve got kids who don’t even watch football.
“I had to, No. 1, make sure they knew Notre Dame played football and, No. 2, knew who Rudy was.”
Pasadena Poly held a camp from Monday through Wednesday with players sleeping over at the school for two nights. The crescendo moment came when the team went to one of the players’ homes for a talk from Rudy.
Although one could make the tie-in that Poly is a small-school program often stocked with undersized players, that was merely a favorable coincidence. Turns out, one of the Poly parents has a connection to Rudy dating back to his own high school days.
“I think the players thought it was neat and positive,” Schmoke said. “Rudy is definitely a salt of the earth kind of guy … blue collar kind of guy. He was just a real positive person and his message was perseverance and positivity.
“We’re not big and don’t fit the bill when you think of a big football program. But we definitely want to put forth to the kids that when the lights go on, we’re going to compete with anybody.”
Poly looks set for a big season. The Panthers have about 50 players in the program, good numbers for a school their size, and have several returning starters back. What’s more, Schmoke says that for the first time he can remember, the varsity roster is made up of solely juniors and seniors.
The Panthers went 6-5 last season and open the season on Aug. 26 at Temple City.
“We think we’re preparing for a great year,” Schmoke said. “Schools that we’ve traditionally played are disappearing from the map or either going to eight-man or just won’t play us anymore.
“We’re opening with Temple City and if you tell anybody that hasn’t been in the Valley for a while that Poly is opening with Temple City, they’d think I’m crazy. But that’s where we’re at. We’re trying to compete with anybody.”