TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Jimbo Fisher likes to tell his players that they can make someone’s day just by being themselves. Junior receiver Travis Rudolph did just that on Tuesday, when he gave a sixth-grader at Tallahassee’s Montford Middle School a lunch that neither will soon forget. Five Seminoles – Rudolph, Dalvin Cook, Derwin James, Deondre Francois and Jalen Wilkerson – visited the school to meet with some area kids.
While eating lunch (pizza, of course), Rudolph noticed one child sitting by himself.
So Rudolph grabbed a slice, made his way over and sat down.
“I asked could I sit with him and he said, ‘Sure, why not?’” Rudolph said. “… He told me his name was Bo, how much he loves Florida State. And we went from there.”
The child’s name is Bo Paske, and according to a Facebook post from his mother, Leah Paske, Bo has autism.
In her post, Leah shared a photo of Bo and Rudolph together, along with a personal message about the challenges that she and Bo face together.
“I have feelings of anxiety for him, and sometimes they can be overwhelming if I let them,” Leah wrote.
Leah wrote that she has a list of questions for Bo each day, one of which is “Who did you eat lunch with today?”
“Sometimes the answer is a classmate,” she wrote. “But most days it’s nobody. Those are 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 a hug for everyone he meets.”
And on this day, he met Rudolph, a preseason All-ACC receiver and one of the key figures of Florida State’s offense.
Rudolph said their conversation came easily.
“One of his first questions was am I in the NFL,” Rudolph said with a smile. “I said, ‘Not yet.’”
For Rudolph, the visit brought back memories of his own childhood in South Florida, where local football stars like former FSU standout Anquan Boldin and Devin Hester lent their time and attention to kids in their communities.
“I was just a kid not too long ago,” Rudolph said. “And I remember what the impact was when I saw guys that played in college football and the NFL coming back to us. So I felt like maybe I could change someone’s life or just make someone a better person and want to be great just like me, even better.”
Tuesday’s trip to Montford Middle was the latest in a long series of visits by FSU football players to Tallahassee area schools.
Several Seminoles spoke with high school football teams throughout the city earlier this year, and they’ve since toured through elementary and middle schools as well.
It’s a side of his program that Fisher is proud to highlight.
“You can change somebody’s life – positively or negatively – every day,” Fisher said. “(They’re) making good choices. … Our guys love doing it. I’m telling you, you’ve to get around our guys like that. They’re awesome, those kids.”