FOXBOROUGH — Travis Rudolph can reach up now and catch this dream he has imagined since he was 4, and he finds strength knowing there are others reaching for it with him.
There is Bo Paske, for example, the autistic sixth-grade boy he befriended last September when he noticed him eating lunch alone at his middle school, and there is his mother Leah.
Nearly a year later, their friendship remains. “She talks to my mom probably every other day,” Rudolph said.
And how is the boy doing?
“He’s doing good,” Rudolph said.
Rudolph spoke to Bo Paske a month ago.
“We have phone conversations,” Rudolph said. “Like the mom will call me and then she was like, ‘Bo wants to talk to you.’ And he was asking me how everything was going and everything like that.”
Rudolph was asked what it is like for him knowing that Paske is watching him, cheering him on from afar in Tallahassee.
“It’s exciting … me and him are always gonna be friends,” Rudolph said. “It’s a blessing to see that I’m making him happy as well. To know that he’s proud of me, it’s an exciting feeling, really.”
And of course there is Rudolph’s father Darryl, victim of an accidental shooting in West Palm Beach, Fla. days before the NFL draft.
“We talked literally almost every day,” Rudolph said. “He was there for me since Day 1. He was the one who introduced me to sports. He used to take me outside when I was probably like four or five years old, he used to throw the football with me, put me in first recreation basketball, then football and then baseball.
“My mom and dad were married for over 26 years and counting. He was a dream father. He showed me how to, if I am blessed to be a father one day (smile), I want to be like him really.”
Travis Rudolph will think about his father before this final preseason game Thursday night against the Patriots.
“I think about him every day,” Rudolph said. “Every day I think about him.”
He is a 6-0, 189-pound wide receiver-kick returner who has believed from Day 1, even before he began idolizing his cousin Devin Hester and DeSean Jackson and Antonio Brown, that he belongs.
“Just growing up, always being the underdog really, and just proving yourself right,” Rudolph said. “My dad, he always told me, ‘You believe, and you can achieve.’”
He believed and he achieved at Florida State. The best catch he ever made?
“I’ll say it was in practice at Florida State last year,” Rudolph said. “I was running a slant and I caught it with one hand, literally. Kept running.”
Would Odell (Beckham Jr.) have been proud of it?
“I feel like he would have, but I don’t know,” Rudolph said. “He has a high standard ’cause he does it just on the normal, but that’s not normal for me, ’cause I use two hands to catch the ball.”
He believed he would achieve even when he was spurned at the NFL draft.
“I just felt like, ‘Hey, that’s just another bump in the road, you just gotta step it up,’” Rudolph said.
He stepped it up with an eye-catching 57-yard catch-and-run against the Jets.
“I had a chip on my shoulder regardless, it wouldn’t matter if I was picked No. 1 or just undrafted like I am,” Rudolph said. “That’s just how I feel about myself.
“I’m a dog.”
Much has been made about Rudolph writing a Victor Cruz-esque Giants story.
“But honestly, I don’t want to be compared to Victor Cruz,” Rudolph says. “I’m my own person, honestly. No disrespect to Victor Cruz, I feel like he’s a great player, great person. But I don’t want to be compared to him.”
To Bo Paske, to his late father, Travis Rudolph should never have been compared to anyone.