Atlanta Falcons rookie running back Qadree Ollison already honors his brother with every snap he takes on a football field. Now, Ollison will honor him with his jersey number too.
Falcons coach Dan Quinn informed Ollison this week that he could switch jersey numbers from No. 32 to No. 30 after fullback Ricky Ortiz (the previous owner of the No.30 jersey) was waived with an injury settlement. Ollison jumped at the opportunity.
The No. 30 will always have a special place in Ollison’s heart. His brother, LeRowne “Rome” Harris, donned No. 30 as a standout youth league football player in Niagara Falls, N.Y. Harris was fatally shot at a Niagara Falls gas station in 2017 at the age of 35. It is Harris whom Ollison credits with first putting a football into his hands.
“A number is a number, but this means a little bit more to me,” Ollison told ESPN about his jersey number exchange. “It’s going to be really nice to have that. It’s going to be exciting for everybody, just wearing that number and what it represents to me and my family.”
Ollison chooses to honor Harris’s life rather than stew in anger over what the murderer did by taking that life away. In fact, buoyed by Christ’s forgiveness, Ollison was also able to forgive. Ollison wrote a letter to his brother’s killer, read aloud by his father at the sentencing on Aug. 2, 2018.
“Every single life is precious, no matter what they’ve done. I truly believe that,” Ollison’s letter read. “I truly believe that God hand-crafted and molded each one of us and gave us this life. We are all his children. We are all sons, and we are all daughters. … Now here I am, and I have this choice to hate you or not. I choose not to.”
Ollison’s letter went on to offer a message of hope through tragedy.
“I still believe that your life is precious and you can spread love around like God wants us to,” Ollison wrote. “I choose not to hate you. I can’t hate one of God’s children. I truly hope and pray that you get better from this. I hope that this time is what you need and what makes you love and not hate.”
Ollison is not new to jersey number swaps. He also switched jersey numbers last year before his final season in college at the University of Pittsburgh, going from No. 37 to No. 30. Ollison amassed over 1,200 yards, 11 touchdowns and a berth on the second-team All-ACC in the jersey, impressing Falcons management enough to draft him in the fifth round.
Ollison continued to impress in Atlanta’s preseason action, with two touchdowns and a 16-yard run.
He joins a talented and deep Falcons backfield with the likes of Devonta Freeman, Ito Smith and others. Still, many expect him to see the field in his first season, especially in short-yardage situations due to his 6-foot-1, 232-pound frame.
Ollison’s number request could take up to a week for the NFL to process, so he may not have his new No. 30 by the time his team kicks off its Week 1 game at Minnesota on Sunday. Regardless, Ollison will take the field in his first ever NFL game with his brother ever on his mind.
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