A middle schooler with autism was eating lunch by himself one day in August 2016—as he often does—when he caught the attention of one college football star, who approached him holding two slices of pizza. His days of eating by himself changed from that day forth.
August 30, 2016—it was a pretty average day in the life of Bo Paske, an 11-year-old sixth-grader at Montford Middle School. Bo was in the cafeteria, eating his lunch alone as he’s done many times before.
Somewhat surprisingly, Bo “doesn’t seem to mind” eating alone at lunch, his mother told Fox and Friends. Bo has autism, and as is common with many autistic schoolchildren, he struggles more than most to make friends. Despite his isolation, sometimes his mother “is thankful for his autism,” she explains in a Facebook post, “it shields him.”
That particular Tuesday afternoon would break Bo’s lunchtime status quo, however. The Florida State University football team came to Montford Middle School and were sharing their lunch with the sixth-graders. Travis Rudolph, a wide receiver for the FSU football team, saw Bo eating by himself and asked if he could sit down with him: “he said, sure, why not? As soon as I sat down, he introduced himself to me, and the conversation went on from there,” Travis recalled.
Someone took a picture of Bo and Travis eating together and sent it to Bo’s mother, Leah Paske, who became very emotional. At first, Leah was unaware of Travis’s reputation. After Leah received the photo of the two at lunch together, she immediately chose to become a lifelong fan!
Several times lately I have tried to remember my time in middle school, did I like all my teachers, do I even remember…
Travis’s consideration gained local, and national, attention—his act of kindness spread throughout the halls of Montford Middle School and all over the internet. After that day, Bo no longer ate lunch alone. “I’m a superstar; everybody recognizes me,” Bo said proudly.
Before he left, Travis gave Bo an FSU jersey and his phone number so they could talk anytime. A few months later, Travis called to invite Bo and his mother to his NFL draft party. This particular draft party came in the wake of tragedy. Travis’s father, Darrel, died on the job of an accidental gunshot wound just days before Travis was set to participate in the draft. The Rudolph family postponed funeral services for the party, believing it was what his father would have wanted.
Although Travis was not an immediate draft pick, he was put into the undrafted free-agent status when several NFL teams approached him soon after. The Miami Dolphins, Tennessee Titans, New Orleans Saints, Denver Broncos, and the New York Giants were all interested in bringing Travis on board to play for them.
In the end, he chose to sign up with the New York Giants with his new friend, Bo, at his side the entire time. Congratulations on making your NFL dreams a reality, Travis!
Click below to see more of Travis and Bo’s story:
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