Florida State wide receiver Travis Rudolph racked up 916 receiving yards last year and finished his sophomore season leading the team in receptions. Rudolph has become a key player for the Seminoles’ offense. However, as Rudolph embarks on his junior year, he’s making headlines for a move he made off the football field.
The touching story of Rudolph sitting next to middle schooler Bo Paske at lunch went viral this week. Here’s more on the connection between the two.
1. Bo Is a Student With Autism At Montford Middle School
Bo is a student with autism at Montford Middle School in Tallahassee, Florida. He was sitting by himself at a lunch table in the cafeteria until Rudolph took notice. The wide receiver, who was visiting the school with his Florida State teammates, casually took a seat in front of Bo.
“I was just a kid not too long ago and I remember what the impact was of guys that played in college and in the NFL coming back to us,” Rudolph said, according to ESPN. “So I feel like maybe I can change someone’s life or I can make someone a better person or make someone want to be great or be like me, or even better.
“I didn’t even recognize that it would be this big,” he said during an interview on Fox & Friends. “It just became really viral, and I just wanted it to become aware that everyone is the same, and one man can make a difference.”
2. Bo’s Mother Shared the Touching Story on Facebook
Bo’s mother, Leah Paske shared the story of Rudolph eating lunch with her son, and it went viral shortly after.
In her Facebook post, Paske explained the anxiety she feels as the parent of an autistic child who is beginning the tough middle school years. Paske went on to write how touched she was by Rudolph’s kind gesture.
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 sons 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.
3. At First Bo Didn’t Know Who Rudolph Was
In a candid interview with ESPN, Bo admitted he didn’t recognize Rudolph at first.
“I didn’t know who Travis was for the first time I saw him, and now I remember him– he was a Florida State Football player,” he told Marty Smith.
He went on to explain they had a conversation about sports, with Bo telling Rudolph about his dream of playing in the NBA.
Bo said on Fox & Friends that eating and talking with Rudolph was “like sitting on a rainbow.”
The sixth-grader added that Rudolph even autographed his lunchbox. What’s even better though is that he no longer eats lunch alone.
“Actually, yesterday, in the cafeteria he was sitting at a table full of girls,” Paske said, according to Sports Illustrated. “He was the most popular kid in the room.”
4. Rudolph Met Leah Paske for the First Time on Thursday
In an emotional moment captured by “A Season With Florida State Football,” Rudolph met Leah Paske for the first time.
Paske explained what his actions meant to her.
“So grateful, thank you…I’m not even 100 percent sure you understand how much it meant,” Paske told Rudolph.
“You don’t even have to thank me,” Rudolph responded. “Bo is a great person, and you raised a great son.”
The encounter was also the first meeting between Rudolph and Bo since they shared lunch together in the school cafeteria.
Rudolph told Bo, “You’re my friend forever.”
You can watch a clip of the touching encounter above, courtesy of CBS. The documentary series premieres on Showtime Tuesday, Sept. 6 at 10 p.m. ET.
5. Rudolph Surprised Bo With a Custom Seminoles Jersey
Before Monday night’s game against Ole Miss, Rudolph surprised Bo with a custom FSU jersey. The Paskes were also given a pair of tickets to the game. Bo and Leah Paske will be in Orlando cheering on Rudolph tonight.