After His Brother’s Murder, Qadree Ollison Never Forgets His Why
Qadree Ollison just kept repeating himself.
“Not my brother. Not my brother.”
It was the late afternoon of Oct. 14, 2017, as Ollison, then a junior running back at the University of Pittsburgh, walked into his team’s locker room after a loss to North Carolina State.
He did not know why his whole family was there, in a little office off to the side, but the tears rolling down their faces told some of the story.
His brother, LeRowne “Rome” Harris, had been shot and killed that morning in Ollison’s hometown, at a gas station he used to frequent.
Ollison wrote about the tragedy and his relationship with his older sibling in a post on the Atlanta Falcons’ official website Monday.
THEIR RELATIONSHIP WAS SPECIAL
Growing up in Niagara Falls, New York, Ollison was close with Rome. Rome called Ollison “Qady” and was the only person allowed to say that nickname. He served as Ollison’s protector, like a second father figure.
“My favorite memory was, one time, he saw me at the corner store where all the drug dealers and shit hang out,” Ollison said. “I was out there just chilling. I was walking, I wasn't even doing anything, and he made me go home ... He was like, ‘No, go home.’ He always kept me away from that. Even though he was doing what he was doing, he always made sure that I didn't go down that path."
OLLISON, ROME AND FOOTBALL
Rome, a star athlete in high school, also introduced Ollison to football.
“I was young and my brother – that was my football role model, as far as who I wanted to be like as a football player,” Ollison said. “He literally put the football in my hands.”
As Ollison improved and ran toward the National Football League, he set two goals. No. 1, he wanted to buy his mom a big house. And No. 2, he aimed to move his family from Niagara Falls, getting Rome out of there.
“At a young age, this was my goal,” Ollison said. “My ‘why’ never really changed. I never forgot what my ‘why’ was.”
AFTER THE MURDER
After Rome’s murder, Ollision stayed in Pittsburgh and continued practicing with his team until the funeral the following Thursday.
“One thing the pastor said that helped me days after, and even today, it's the only part of the funeral service I remember,” Ollison said. “He said, ‘No matter how dark the tunnel is, there is light on the other side.’ After that, my goal was to find what that light is. Something good has to come from this.”
Two days later, he earned the game ball in a victory over Duke.
For his senior senior, he changed his number from 37 to 30 — Rome’s old number — and balled out. He rushed 194 times for 1,213 yards and 11 touchdowns.
“I think I was a good football player before all of that,” Ollison said. “I was motivated, but this drove my motivation and my desire to succeed through the roof. That's why my senior season, not just football, but senior season of college and everything was so much fun.
“I felt like when I put on that 30, it gave me superpowers.”
Ollison still feels that way.
The Falcons selected him in the fifth round of the 2019 NFL Draft, and he made the most of his limited rookie-year opportunities, leading Atlanta in rushing touchdowns.
This season, Ollison is expected to back up Todd Gurley in the Falcons’ backfield.
And he’ll do it with No. 30 on his chest.
While running onto the field before every game, he says a quick prayer, asking Rome to watch over him and be with him.
“If he was here right now,” Ollison said, “I'd just be like, ‘Bro, we did it.’”