FSU receiver Travis Rudolph receives praise for eating with autistic boy sitting alone

Biletnikoff Award candidate from West Palm Beach inspires powerful Facebook post

PEMBROKE PARK, Fla. – A Florida State University football player from West Palm Beach is receiving plenty of praise on social media simply for eating lunch with a middle school student who was sitting alone.

FSU junior wide receiver Travis Rudolph was visiting a Tallahassee middle school earlier this week when he noticed a boy sitting alone at a lunch table. So, the former Cardinal Newman High School star decided to sit with him.

"Toward the end I saw Bo. He was sitting by himself," Rudolph said. "I got some pizza (and) I asked him if I could sit down with him. He said, 'Sure, why not,' and from there we started a great conversation."

It turns out that the boy, whose name is Bo Paske, is autistic.

Paske's mother was so touched by the act of compassion that she shared the experience on her Facebook page.

"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," Leah Paske wrote. "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."

The post included a picture of Rudolph eating with her son.

"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. Travis Rudolph thank you so much, you made this momma exceedingly happy, and have made us fans for life!"

Rudolph is on the preseason watch list for the Biletnikoff Award, which is given to the most outstanding receiver in college football. The fourth-ranked Seminoles open the season Monday night against No. 11 Mississippi in Orlando.

About the Author:

Peter Burke returned for a second stint of duty at Local 10 News in February 2014.