NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. — With one phone call, Qadree Ollison's life changed forever.
Surrounded by friends and family in Niagara Falls, the former University of Pittsburgh running back waited and watched the 2019 NFL Draft, now well into its third day.
Then his phone rang. Few around him seemed to notice, but Qadree looked down at the number, leaned forward, and answered.
Moments later, he was in tears. The family and friends gathered around him exploded from what was a calm state into a frenzy. He tried to process the words he was hearing.
Next came the hugs. He tried to quiet the cheers so he could hear, but before he knew it the call was over, and while everyone knew what had just happened, they waited for an acknowledgment.
Qadree thanked them for being there, still somewhat searching for the words. Then he found them. "We goin' to Atlanta, baby!"
The great irony is Ollison has never been to Atlanta. He now has a flight set for May 9. He'll be heading to Georgia to participate in the Falcons' rookie mini-camp after being chosen with the 152nd pick, that's the 14th pick of the fifth round.
“Pure exhilaration," he said a day later. "I get to fulfill my lifelong dream of playing in the NFL, or having a chance to play in the NFL. It can’t get much better than that.”
Ollison recently wrapped up a prolific 52-game career at the University of Pittsburgh in which he rushed for more than 2,800 yards and scored 32 total touchdowns. Before all that, however, the Falls kid starred for Canisius High School in downtown Buffalo, where he owns the school records for rushing yards with 4,147 and touchdowns with 57.
“Canisius definitely groomed me into the young man I was before I went to college," Ollison said. "I always make sure to come back and see my coaches and teachers and stuff because these are the people that helped me get to this point. You can’t thank everybody, but I try my best to show appreciation that’s helped me this way.”
With as much as he'll take with him from his life in Western New York, Ollison also remains focused on what lies before him.
“I talked to a few people obviously when they called me yesterday. Coach Dan Quinn and the running backs coach, coach (Dave) Brock, and the owner. I talked to those three people and they're just excited to get me in to come in and just work," he said.
“Nothing is given to you. You have to earn your spot, and that’s been the same. You have to do it in college, you have to do it in high school, so nothing is given. Just because you’re drafted doesn’t mean you’ve arrived.”
For their part, it sounds like Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff and coach Dann Quinn have big plans for the newest addition to their backfield.
“We’ve been looking for a big back to add to that group," Dimitroff said in the team's post-draft news conference. "He's a big guy. A strong guy. Actually has really nice feet and game speed ability about him for a bigger back like that. He has "pass pro" ability as well and can catch the ball, so there's a versatility element to a bigger guy."
Added Quinn: "We expect him to have an impact on all four downs."
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