Thursday, September 8, 2016


Ideally speaking, athletes do more than just wow sports fans and audiences at games with their physical ability and skill. Off the courts and playing fields they are also put on pedestals and generally perceived as an aspiration, be it as examples of physical fitness or as role models of behavior. In the real world however such a naïve viewpoint has long been disappointed by sportsmen and women who have fallen short of such expectations. But now and then a major athlete performs a class act that cements him in his fans’ opinions as the most awesome athlete and person ever. Usually we get news of such sterling examples from big-league professional sports. This one isn’t, but his story is admirable all the same.

As ESPN tells it, just this Tuesday August 30 several players from the Florida State University Seminoles football team paid a visit to Montford Middle School in Tallahassee, Florida. One of them, wide receiver Travis Rudolph, happened to be at the cafeteria during lunchtime and noticed a little boy sitting all alone at table. With his lunch plate in hand, Rudolph took a seat opposite the solitary student and, while eating, struck up a friendly conversation with the boy. The encounter was heartwarming enough to catch the attention of an adult who took a picture of the scene and shared it with the student’s mother, Leah Paske, who was an acquaintance.

Paske posted the photo on Facebook, where it quickly became one of the latest viral internet topics with 14,000 shares. The reason is that the lone boy eating lunch, Paske’s son Bo, is autistic. And Rudolph spoke to him and treated him like he was any other kid without his disadvantage, just as Bo himself did not realize at first that he was speaking to a player from the number 4 ranked college football team, which he happened to be a fan of.

"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,” Paske wrote in the photo’s caption. “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."

Relating the incident himself, Rudolph said he enjoyed his conversation with Bo, describing the child as a “warm person”. It didn’t even register to him that Bo was autistic, nor did it matter. He simply remembered his own childhood and how he felt whenever he got to meet a college or NFL football player up close. Seeing his younger self in Bo, Rudolph added, "I feel like, one person can make a difference, and maybe I'm that difference."

FSU will be facing the University of Mississippi on the upcoming Kickoff Week of NCAA.

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