Hillsboro football player nominated for national ‘Rudy Award’When his team lost in the North Dakota high school football playoffs this year, Hillsboro senior Gary Suchor knelt at the center of the field and spoke to his mother, his inspiration, in prayer.
By: Chuck Haga, Grand Forks Herald
When his team lost in the North Dakota high school football playoffs this year, Hillsboro senior Gary Suchor knelt at the center of the field and spoke to his mother, his inspiration, in prayer.
“I keep her close to my heart all the time, to remind me to never give up,” he said this week. “She never did.”
Renell Suchor was on the sidelines two years ago, watching as Gary, then a sophomore, and the rest of the Hillsboro Burros won a state championship.
She knew then it was probably the last time she’d watch her son play football. She died four months later after a long battle with cancer.
“He’s my first-born,” she said as she watched the 2008 championship game in Grand Forks. “I wish I’d be around a little longer to help guide him, but I hope in 16½ years I’ve helped some.”
Through his junior and senior years, Gary Suchor played football in his mother’s honor, inspiring his teammates and coaches, and this month he was recognized as an inspirational figure himself — nominated for a national high school “Rudy Award.”
Suchor and Cody Wahl of Steele, N.D., are the only North Dakota high school football players among almost 180 young men around the country nominated for the award.
“The Rudy” is named for Daniel “Rudy” Ruettiger, who overcame many obstacles to achieve his dream of playing for Notre Dame. His early life, culminating in his playing 27 seconds for the Fighting Irish, was depicted in the 1993 film “Rudy.”
“It’s a great movie,” Suchor said. “I love it.”
He was nominated for the award by Scott Olsen, his football coach at Hillsboro.
“If anyone is deserving of the award, it’s Gary, for what he’s gone through and the way he has carried himself,” Olsen said.
The award is meant to honor courage, commitment and character.
“Those are all Gary,” his coach said.
“He isn’t the strongest or most athletic kid on the field, but he’s made himself into a good athlete. He was a first-team, all-state linebacker this year. He led us in tackles last year, and he was second this year.
“Everybody tried to match Gary’s work ethic.”
Driven to excel
In his nomination letter, Olsen noted that Renell Suchor “was an inspiration to us all,” and her son “played, practiced and led his teammates” in her honor.
“When Gary plays, he has something nobody else has. I can’t describe it, but you know that there is something there driving him to excel. Everyone feeds off of it. Everyone tries to match what he is doing on the field.”
Suchor’s nomination for the award earned him a big splash on the front page of his hometown newspaper, the Hillsboro Banner.
“Gary is an amazing kid,” said Michelle McLean, the editor. “The entire community is proud of him.”
Fifty semifinalists will be announced at the end of the month, based on votes cast at the award website — www.highschoolrudyawards.com — and 12 finalists will be named Dec. 28. The winner and three others receiving scholarships will be announced Jan. 18.
The award selection committee includes professional football players and coaches, TV commentators and others connected to the sport.
His role models include teachers
How have Gary “Rudy” Suchor’s teammates reacted to the news?
“They’re behind me all the way,” he said. “Everyone is — the community, my family. They’re all rooting for me.
“It’s a huge honor to be recognized as a potential ‘Rudy.’ ”
The embrace of friends, family and neighbors has helped him deal with the loss of his No. 1 fan and booster.
“It’s been hard, not having her here,” he said. “But being with a great family, in a great community, has made things easier.”
Suchor said he plans to attend college next year but hasn’t decided where. Nor has he decided about trying to extend his football career.
“Football is a pretty big commitment,” he said. “But it would be fun.”
He said he’s thinking about going into teaching.
“Some of my greatest role models have been teachers,” he said. “My mother was a special ed teacher for the deaf.”
Reach Haga at (701) 780-1102; (800) 477-6572, ext. 102; or send e-mail to email@example.com.