Rudy Desautel and what could have been

Rudy is introduced to Gary Coleman by Kim Fields in the most 1980s moment ever.
Rudy is introduced to Gary Coleman by Kim Fields in the most 1980s moment ever.

Dating way back to my boyhood, I’ve been fascinated by the career of Rudy Desautel, former NFL wide receiver whose career (and spirits) is saved by Gary Coleman in that 1982 classic, “The Kid With the Broken Halo.” In fact, somehow during my time at Sports Illustrated Chris Stone (the current managing editor) and I discovered a shared love for the name “Rudy Desautel”—which, to be honest, is probably the best thing about an otherwise awful made-for-TV movie.

Well, I never knew much about Rudy’s football career. Wasn’t even sure whether he was a Ram or Charger. But today, thanks to a wandering mind and YouTube, I can say, with absolute certainty …

A. Rudy was a member of the Cleveland Browns, which means he was catching passes from Brian Sipe and lining up wide of Ozzie Newsome.

B. Rudy caught four touchdown passes in a Super Bowl, which—according to Coleman—ties a record. This, however, is wrong. Bob Shaw holds the single-game NFL mark with five touchdown catches for the 1950 Chicago Cardinals. And this was well before Jerry Rice snagged five touchdown passes in a Super Bowl as a 49er. So, taking nothing away from Desautel, I’m skeptical.

C. Back in the 1980s pretty much any adorable, undersized kid could find his way to an NFL sideline.

D. Rudy was No. 83 on the Browns roster. Which means the team either had to cut Ricky Feacher, switch his uniform or trade him mid-season.

D. According to Coleman, Rudy apparently had a great game against the Seminoles. Which, one would think, means Florida State. But …

E. Rudy Desautel played his college ball at Wesleyan. Which can refer to one of myriad Wesleyans—including Wesleyan U in Middletown, Conn., North Carolina Wesleyan, Weleyan College – Macon. The whole thing forces me to ask:

• 1. Why, of all places, Wesleyan?

• 2. Which producer attended Wesleyan?

Coleman makes things clearer when he raves about that game against Amhearst—meaning Rudy did his college ball at Division III Wesleyan University, which has produced a whopping one NFL player (Jeff Wilner, a Packers tight end). Interestingly, Wesleyan is the birthplace of Bill Belichick. And Eric Mangini.

I need a life.

And Brian Sipe needs royalties …

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PS: It didn’t end well.