Florida State wide receiver Travis Rudolph will be an impact playmaker for the Seminoles offense on the field this season, but on Tuesday, he played an even more important role off the field — just by taking some time out of his day to have lunch with an autistic middle schooler who normally eats alone.
Rudolph was at the middle school Tuesday afternoon when he spotted the student sitting by himself, so he walked over and decided to enjoy a couple slices of pizza with the boy. Little did he know why the child was sitting alone, nor the impact his simple, sweet action would have on the boy’s mother.
Here’s what Leah Paske, the boy’s mother, had to say on Facebook after she learned about Rudolph’s gesture.
“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. 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.
“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!”
It’s a fantastic gesture from Rudolph to try and brighten the young man’s day, and you can see from his mother’s post that it meant a ton to her and her son.
As for Rudolph, he was just happy he could help out. The Facebook post brought some tears to his eyes when he heard about it, and it now seems like the boy suddenly has a new friend and lunch pal.
Just spoke with #FSU WR Travis Rudolph. He told me he read the mother’s post before practice and that it nearly brought tears to his eyes.
— Kenny Morales (@KennyMoralesTV) August 30, 2016