Anyone who spends any amount of time around me knows I am a die-hard sports fan and at the top of that list is Florida State Football. I anguish every year during season as if my life is somehow directly affected by the W’s and L’s…..I went to a small Christian College that did not have football, so I chose to be a FSU fan, my primary reason for this was their head coach at the time Bobby Bowden. I adored him and his integrity, values and family devotion. My kids were raised to be FSU fans, and I am proud to say they all are : ) several years ago I had the honor to meet Coach Bowden and spend a bit of time with him and I can honestly say he was everything I thought he was, and more. I have for years loved him, and to meet him was one of the highlights of my life! I watched as so many amazing young men came out of the football program and did so much for others.
This past week FSU program has been in the national spotlight for the awesome kindness of its top wide receiver, Travis Rudolph. I am sure all of you have seen the story, he befriended a young man, Bo, who sat alone at lunch. Why did he sit alone? Because he has autism, yes that’s all, it broke my heart when I saw the picture of how far away the other kids sat from this sweet boy. I read his Mom’s Facebook post and
cried, as I share many of her same feelings in regards to Peyton. Any time Peyton attends anything I ask him, did you have fun? We’re the kids nice? Did you make a friend etc…the hurt is real for us Mom’s. I pray daily that Peyton makes friends, reading Bo’s Moms post she does as well. Travis saw this young man sitting alone and instead of walking past and going to the “cool kids table” he sat with Bo. Travis talked and laughed with him and showed the world who the true “cool kid ” is. Travis is an amazing wide receiver on a team of amazing football talent, yet he will forever stand out for his awesome heart. This story hit me harder than many others as Peyton has his own Florida State football player awesome hero. Everett Dawkins. “Big E” as we call him, quietly without any media spotlight has done the same for Peyton. Big E befriended Peyton and has been an amazing influence in his life. Peyton sees what a caring and driven person E is, E plays football, as well as has a charity and many other things. Yet through it all E is Peyton’s friend. Last week Peyton got his hair cut, I tweeted a picture and E complimented it on Twitter. While this may be a small thing to us, it’s a big thing to Peyton. E has a heart that is as big as he is. Peyton wrote a blog last year about how E is his hero, and as his mom I am glad he is. When men like Everett and Travis tell these boys it’s ok to be different, in fact it’s “cool” to be…it makes all the difference. We Autism Mom’s Pray every day that our kids just be “accepted” and when men like Travis and Everett step in their lives, we realize our prayers are heard and Angels have come to earth in the form of two very special Noles. As I said at the start of this blog I love FSU, but for the last couple of years that love has grown, but not because of football, but because of the men who have special hearts. I told E how much I appreciated both he and Travis…here is his response “It’s my pleasure, you guys are have the hard part we step in and help with putting smiles on faces, but you guys are the real heroes 24/7” as I said I am proud Peyton has a hero like E, he is a man among men.
See also: Please support Big E’s Underdog Kids Foundation