Bo Paske, an autistic middle-school student, sat alone eating his lunch Tuesday when Florida State wide receiver Travis Rudolph approached and asked to sit with him. Paske replied “Sure, why not?” And Rudolph sat down to enjoy his lunch with a child who often sits alone at lunch, according to Paske’s mother.
“It went from there and started a great conversation,” said Rudolph in an interview with FSU Athletics.
Rudolph reported that Paske didn’t really know who Rudolph was until the wide receiver, who led his team in receptions (59), receiving yards (916) and touchdown receptions (7) last year, explained who he was. Still, the two enjoyed their lunches together during a visit to a local middle school by some of the FSU players.
“I didn’t even know he had Autism,” Rudolph said to FSU Athletics.
During an interview with the Tallahassee Democrat, Rudolph said that players made a huge impact on his life by talking to him when he was that age, and he would like to be able to impact people in the same way.
“I feel like one person can make a difference, and maybe, I’m that difference. So, I feel like why not go help out,” Rudolph said to FSU Athletics.
However, the mother’s reaction remains a large part of what made the story spread so quickly.
After someone informed her who was having lunch with her son, she posted on Facebook about the experience.
“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,” the post read. “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.”
In an interview with WCTV’s Kenny Morales, the FSU wide receiver said that the post touched him and almost brought tears to his eyes.
“I feel like he is a great person, and I would love to hang out with him anytime,” said Rudolph to FSU Athletics.