Football Star Sees Autistic Kid Eating Alone, Swoops in

Feel all the feels, thanks to FSU's Travis Rudolph
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 1, 2016 11:50 AM CDT
Football Star Sees Autistic Kid Eating Alone, Swoops in
Bo Paske sits by his mother, Leah, during an interview at Montford Middle School in Tallahassee, Fla., on Wednesday.   (AP Photo/Joseph Reedy)

When Leah Paske got a message from a friend Tuesday that said, "Travis Rudolph is eating lunch with your son," accompanied by a now-viral photo of her son chowing down in his Florida middle school with a young man, her first response was: "Who?" That response soon turned to gratitude toward the person she now labels as "an incredibly kind man" with "fans for life," ABC News reports. That man: 20-year-old Florida State University wide receiver Travis Rudolph, who was visiting Tallahassee's Montford Middle School with other players from the Seminoles football team when he spotted Paske's son, Bo, eating alone. Paske explains in a Facebook post that Bo has autism and thankfully seems to not notice or mind that he no longer gets invited to birthday parties and regularly sits by himself at lunch. Still, Paske's "feelings of anxiety for him" can be "overwhelming," she says. Rudolph explains he noticed Bo sitting alone and asked if he and his pizza could join the student, per the AP.

"We just had a great conversation," Rudolph says. One of Bo's first questions to Rudolph, per the Orlando Sentinel: whether he played for the NFL, to which Rudolph answered, "Not yet." A Paske family friend who happens to work at Montford snapped the photo so he could assure Bo's mom her son was doing OK. "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," Paske writes. Rudolph tells he remembers local football stars engaging with the community when he was young, and figured "maybe I could change someone's life." As for Bo, he seems stoked at the hubbub surrounding his lunch date, which also nabbed him an autographed lunchbox and an invite to have dinner with the team. "It was kind of like me sitting on a rainbow," Bo says, per the Tallahassee Democrat. Paske tells the paper the day after Rudolph's visit, Bo was "the most popular kid in the room" and sat with a table full of girls at lunch. (An awesome story about a girl with autism and a shirt she loves.)

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