Travis Rudolph spotted a lonely middle schooler sitting all by himself during lunchtime and gave him some much-needed company.
A small act of kindness can have a massive impact on someone's life and one such incident involving college football player Travis Rudolph is a shining example of that statement. According to the Tallahassee Democrat, Rudolph, who was a wide receiver on the football team of Florida State University back in 2016, visited the Montford Middle School in Tallahassee, Florida, that year and encountered a sixth grader eating his lunch alone.
“I saw him sitting there by himself and I got a plate of pizza and I asked him, can I sit with him, and he said, ‘Sure, why not,’” Rudolph said, per PEOPLE. The sixth grader, Bo Paske, was a student with autism who was glad to have the company of a kindhearted college football player. Moreover, in a now-private post that Paske’s mother, Leah, made on her Facebook page, she mentioned how her son would often eat his lunch alone.
“He is a super sweet child who always has a smile and hug for everyone he meets,” she said at that time. “A friend of mine sent this beautiful picture to me today and then I saw it with the caption, ‘Travis Rudolph is eating lunch with your son.’” Leah couldn't immediately recognize Rudolph, a junior at his university, but after learning that he was a star athlete, the mom said she had “tears streaming down her face.”
“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,” she wrote on her Facebook page. “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!”
“I was just a kid not too long ago and I remember what the impact was when I seen guys that play college football or in the NFL coming back to us, so I think, maybe I could change someone’s life,” Rudolph revealed while speaking to the Tallahassee Democrat. The now-viral photograph of Rudolph and Paske shows them sitting at a relatively empty lunch table. The football player can be seen taking a bite out of his pizza while Paske enjoys the lunch he brought to school.
After the moment went viral, Paske and his mother appeared in an interview with CBS Mornings. Surprisingly enough, Paske's lunch scenario changed after his encounter with Rudolph went viral and now every kid wanted to sit with him during lunchtime. "I am a superstar. Everybody recognizes me," Paske told the host during the interview. "I am just moved by his generosity and kindness. I haven't spoken to him yet, but I am so grateful for what he did for Bo," Leah admitted.
Despite setting a positive example for others to follow, Rudolph went on to have a brief stint at the NFL before he faced legal charges consisting of one count of first-degree premeditated murder and three counts of attempted first-degree murder in connection with a 2021 shooting. According to CNN, he was found not guilty of murder and other charges by a Palm Beach County jury and he was released from house arrest. Rudolph spent two seasons in the NFL as a player for the New York Giants and the Miami Dolphins. In 2017, he played seven games for the Giants, catching eight passes for 101 yards.