Football player's act of kindness earns Musial Award

One FSU football player made a name for himself not just on the field, but in a lunchroom.

TALLAHASSEE, FL. - In Tallahassee, fall Saturdays have their own rhythm. The beat comes from the heart because of a love for football.

One of the players that can always get the heart racing for these fans is #15, Travis Rudolph. Although he's just a junior, he's already considered one of the best wide receivers in the country.

He chose Florida State in part because of its great tradition.

"It was the best school for me, on and off the field, " Rudolph said.

Rudolph is soft spoken and by all accounts, cordial, and kind. The kind of guy who wants to give back to his community.

It was a few days before Florida State's season opener against Ole Miss that a few members of the team visited Montford Middle School.

"FSU has a fantastic program where they send the student-athletess to the local schools to visit and hang out with the kids, "explained Leah Paske.

Paske's 11-year-old son Bo goes to Montford Middle School. He's been mainstreamed since he was young despite being diagnosed at age 3 with autism.

"It was a devastating blow where the doctor tells you that he won't ever hold a job, that he won't ever play team sports. That he won't ever able to live by himself," Paske said with tears running down her face.

But Bo never stops trying and he never stops loving.

"He is the most loving, affectionate child I've ever met, his mom said proudly.

And so it was fate that introduced Travis Rudolph to Bo Paske.

It happened in the cafeteria where all the kids were having lunch.

"When Bo started here at Montford, his mom asked me to watch over him," explained Deputy Sheriff Michael Halligan.

Halligan is also the school resource officer and he saw that Bo was sitting at a table alone. And he wasn't the only one to notice.

"I was very hungry at the time so I grabbed a couple of slices of pizza and I saw Bo sitting by himself so I asked him, 'Can I have a seat? "

"When he saw me sitting by myself he said, 'Hey can I sit down with you?' and I said, 'Sure why not.'" Bo recalled.

The deputy saw this all happen in front of him and decided to capture the moment.

"I thought it'd be a great time to send a picture to Bo's mom to let her know that hey a famous FSU football player is sitting next to Bo," Halligan said.

"And so I just was immediately overcome with emotion because in the picture," said Leah. "He's the only one at the table, all the other kids are kind of far away and this star of the Florida State football team is sitting at the table eating lunch."

Neither Leah, nor Bo, nor Travis had any idea what would happen after Leah posted the picture on Facebook.

Leah started getting messages from, as she says, people in every country she's ever heard of and they were all saying thank you.

"Thank you for sending this message maybe now my son won't sit alone in the cafeteria. Maybe my child won't have to worry about being left out," Leah explained.

"You're known all over the world, what do you think of that?" we asked Bo. He said, "It was awesome."

And now instead of being alone, Bo isn't left alone any time he comes to an FSU football game.

He's happy to take pictures and give hugs. No one is a stranger.

But Travis remains Bo's hero.

"He's a great football All-Star," said Bo enthusiastically.

"If I'm his hero, that's up to him but he's my hero too," said Rudolph.

The story of Travis Rudolph on the field is still being written but the story of what he did off the field is already a best seller.

"So it really ended up being a message of inclusion and love and maybe being a little kinder to people," said Leah.

"Everybody is very unique in their own specific way so treat everybody the same so you never know that one little gesture like that can change somebody's life forever, "added Rudolph.

It's the friendships you least expect that end up meaning the most.

(© 2017 KSDK)


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