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Full Text Publications > Knute Rockne's "Win One for the Gipper" Speech


Knute Rockne gave his "Win One for the Gipper" speech to the Notre Dame players at halftime of the 1928 Army game. Rockne was trying to salvage something from his worst season as a coach at Notre Dame. To inspire the players he told them the story of the tragic death of the greatest player ever at ND, George Gipp. Although historians believe that it is doubtful that Rockne's version of Gipp's last words was true, Notre Dame did win the game against Army.

More importantly, the story became solidified into popular culture after its recreation in the 1940 movie, Knute Rockne - All American. The phrase "Win one for the Gipper" was infused into the lexicon of American society and later became a rallying cry for the political campaigns of the actor who played Gipp in the movie, Ronald Reagan. Below is the transcript of the dialogue from the movie that begins one hour and seventeen minutes after the showing of the MGM logo.

The scene opens with the interior of the Notre Dame dressing room. The players, seated with blankets draped over their shoulders, are dejected and silent. The door pushes open and Rockne is wheeled in. They look at Rockne (played by Pat O'Brien) in mute apology, then guiltily away, as if to avoid his eyes. His dark-circled eyes range over the players for a full moment of unbroken silence. Then, quietly, as if the game didn't matter to him:

ROCKNE: Well, boys ... I haven't a thing to say.  Played a great game...all of you. Great game. 

(He tries to smile.)  I guess we just can't expect to win ‘em all.  (Rockne pauses and says quietly).  I'm going to tell you something I've kept to myself for years -- None of you ever knew George Gipp.  It was long before your time.  But you know what a tradition he is at Notre Dame...

(There is gentle, faraway look in his eyes as he recalls the boy's words).  And the last thing he said to me -- "Rock," he said - "sometime, when the team is up against it -- and the breaks are beating the boys -- tell them to go out there with all they got and win just one for the Gipper...

(Knute's eyes become misty and his voice is unsteady as he finishes).  I don't know where I'll be then, Rock", he said - "but I'll know about it - and I'll be happy."

There is a hushed stillness as Rockne and the crowd of boys look at each other. In the midst of this tense silence, Rockne quietly says "Alright," to the men beside him, and his chair is wheeled slowly out of the dressing room.

PLAYER # 12:  Well, what are we waiting for?

With a single roar, the players throw off their blankets and rush through the doorway.