Travis Rudolph is a wide receiver for Florida State, but to Bo Paske, he’s so much more than that — he’s a hero.
You see, in 2016, Rudolph and some of his teammates just so happened to be strolling through the cafeteria of Montford Middle School in Tallahassee when he saw a red-headed boy sitting all alone. That boy was Bo.
What he didn’t know is that Bo has autism and has been stuck in this position more times than he can count. As they ate pizza and chatted like old friends, somebody caught the adorable interaction on camera and sent it to Bo’s mom, Leah.
Leah was so overwhelmed by Rudolph’s sweet act of kindness for her son, that she took to Facebook with an emotional message that has left thousands in tears along with her.
“Florida State wide receiver Travis Rudolph will be an impact playmaker for the Seminoles offense on the field this season, but on Tuesday, he played an even more important role off the field — just by taking some time out of his day to have lunch with a middle schooler with autism who normally eats alone.
Rudolph was at the middle school Tuesday afternoon when he spotted the student sitting by himself, so he walked over and decided to enjoy a couple slices of pizza with the boy. Little did he know why the child was sitting alone, nor the impact his simple, sweet action would have on the boy’s mother.
Several times lately I have tried to remember my time in middle school, did I like all my teachers, do I even remember them? Did I have many friends? Did I sit with anyone at lunch? Just how mean were kids really? I remember one kid on the bus called me ‘Tammy Fay Baker’ bc I started awkwardly wearing eye liner in the sixth grade, I remember being tough and calling him a silly name back, but when he couldn’t see me anymore I cried. I do remember middle school being scary, and hard.
Now that I have a child starting middle school, I have feelings of anxiety for him, and they can be overwhelming if I let them. Sometimes I’m grateful for his autism. That may sound like a terrible thing to say, but in some ways I think, I hope, it shields him. He doesn’t seem to notice when people stare at him when he flaps his hands. He doesn’t seem to notice that he doesn’t get invited to birthday parties anymore. And he doesn’t seem to mind if he eats lunch alone. It’s one of my daily questions for him. Was there a time today you felt sad? Who did you eat lunch with today? Sometimes the answer is a classmate, but most days it’s nobody.
Those are the days I feel sad for him, but he doesn’t seem to mind. He is a super sweet child, who always has a smile and hug for everyone he meets. A friend of mine sent this beautiful picture to me today and when I saw it with the caption ‘Travis Rudolph is eating lunch with your son’ I replied ‘who is that?’ He said ‘FSU football player,’ then I had tears streaming down my face.
Travis Rudolph, a wide receiver at Florida State, and several other FSU players visited my son’s school today. I’m not sure what exactly made this incredibly kind man share a lunch table with my son, but I’m happy to say that it will not soon be forgotten. This is one day I didn’t have to worry if my sweet boy ate lunch alone, because he sat across from someone who is a hero in many eyes. Travis Rudolph thank you so much, you made this momma exceedingly happy, and have made us fans for life! #travisrudolph#gonoles#FSU#autismmom#fansforlife“
Not anticipating the massive impact his simple act would have, Rudolph was quite moved by the attention he received.
“Just spoke with #FSU WR Travis Rudolph,” tweeted Kenny Morales. “He told me he read the mother’s post before practice and that it nearly brought tears to his eyes.”
He also made it clear that he’d love to hang out with Bo any day and offered to give his mom his cell phone number if he ever needs anything.
In a world where isolation for our differences is becoming all too common, it’s beautiful to see these two young fellas from totally unlikely backgrounds bond over a simple meal.
Now, that’s nourishment for the soul. 💛