He found the man rising when he looked across the table. He hadn’t known who he was before but now recognized him as he drew closer.
He had several posters of him in his room, and now he was in the same room with him. His heart began pounding within him, his stomach clenching. He had no clue that he was on camera.
Where some kids dream of being doctors, officers, and lawyers when they grow up, Charlie Williams wanted to be a part of football. Since he was a child, he’d always supported Florida State as it was his home team.
At only eleven years, Charlie couldn’t think of anything else he’d wanna do with his life than be a professional football player. But there was a massive problem that made everyone at school ridicule him and his dream.
A Lone Wolf
Charlie’s biggest hurdle in his dream of becoming a football player was he had a smaller build than many kids at his school. He was extremely weak and thin, something that his classmates loved mocking him about.
Regardless, he never stopped believing that he’d one day play football with the best football players in the state. Many viewed him as a joke at school, and most of the time, he’d spend time alone at lunch since he had no friends. But this would all change one day.
A Peaceful Routine
For the longest while, Charlie had formed a particular ritual at school. He’d pay attention in class, learning all he could, and at lunchtime, pick his food and race to his favorite table before anyone occupied it.
He’d also settle for the same food every day, which comprised of some starch like mashed potatoes, proteins like chicken or fish fillet, gravy, and some fruits. He’d then eat his food alone.
Words Whispered Behind His Back
One day while sitting at his table, a rumor filtered into Charlie’s ears, making his brows draw up. He looked over his shoulder and listened carefully.
More words floated past him, and his heart skipped a beat. Since he wasn’t friends with any of the kids who were talking, Charlie couldn’t confirm the validity of their statements. So he did the only thing he could: rushed to the faculty to ask.
Digging Out The Truth
Charlie hurried to one of his favorite teachers to ask about what he’d just heard. “Ma’am, I heard that a football team might come to visit the school?” he panted. The teacher broke a smile and said, “Yes, Charlie, yes they are!”
Charlie almost fainted. He reeled back, a grin splitting his face in two. He’d always dreamt of meeting a professional football player, and that day would answer his dream.
Excitement welled within Charlie, but he had to hold it in. He asked his teacher when the team would be visiting, and she replied the next day. Charlie couldn’t do anything else when he got home.
He collected all the football memorabilia in his room, from collecting cards to photos and his Florida State jersey. He was sure he was ready for whatever the next day would hurl at him, not knowing how wrong he was.
Charlie got up very early the next day. He couldn’t even tell if he’d slept at all. He got ready and jumped on the bus. He was barely able to contain his excitement throughout his classes.
He was sure he’d spend the afternoon with his favorite heroes when he noticed something that made him step back. All the popular kids had arranged a table at lunch for the football players. Charlie’s eyes blurred with tears. There was no way he would be allowed to go near that table.
Dreams And Nightmares
Charlie sat at his table as he watched football player after football player go to the popular kids’ table. He hunched over in his seat, holding back his tears as he realized he’d never get a chance to hang out with his heroes because he wasn’t popular enough.
He thought maybe if he stayed, one of the players would notice him and come over. He waited, but nothing happened. To make everything worse, the visiting team was Florida State, his all-time favorite. The tears he’d been holding back broke free.
Charlie wiped his eyes as he played with his plastic fork. He was near his favorite team but not near enough. It hurt like nothing he’d ever experienced before.
He looked down at the Florida State jersey he wore, contemplating taking it off. But unknown to him, one of the players had been studying him all along.
Charlie watched as the man rose out of his seat. He didn’t know that he was there, but now that he recognized his face, he knew everything was about to change. He had posters of him hung up on his wall.
And now he was looking at the real thing. Charlie felt his stomach twist into a knot as the man started walking toward him. But what neither of them was aware of was the teacher filming the entire interaction.
The man sat down next to Charlie, who was speechless. He smiled at him and asked what his name was. All he could do was stammer out, “it’s Charlie.” “Well, Charlie, I can see you’re a big fan of my team by your jersey.”
Charlie nodded excitedly and even offered the man some of his lunch. The player looked at the granola bar on his plate and decided to take the gesture he was being offered. But a teacher was secretly filming everything.
The man introduced himself, “Well, Charlie, I don’t know if you know who I am, but I’m one of the members of Florida State, Travis Rudolph.” Charlie nodded his head again, “I know. You’re my favorite player!”
The interaction between the two was extremely wholesome, and it wasn’t just Charlie that was excited. His teacher was recording the entire interaction from across the room. And she would send the evidence to an important person.
Charlie’s mom was sitting at home, oblivious to the interaction taking place in her son’s life, until she heard the message tone of her phone and was let in on what was going on.
She smiled as she watched her son offer the football player some food and go on to talk about how much he looked up to him. It was something she knew meant a lot to Charlie, and now he was finally getting something good.
The interaction wasn’t over yet. Charlie told Travis how much he dreamt of being a football player when he was older. But he explained that he wasn’t very athletic and quite small.
But Travis had inspirational words to share, “If that’s your dream, there’s always a way to make it work. Through hard work and determination, anything is possible. And now you have me to cheer you on the entire time.”