The Falcons chose former Pitt running back Qadree Ollison in the fifth round of the draft, and Ollison’s entry into the NFL has placed renewed attention on his personal story.
In 2017, on a Saturday when Ollison was playing in a game at Pitt, his brother Lerowne Harris was shot and killed. The killer turned out to be Denzel Lewis, a former classmate whom Ollison had considered a friend when they were children.
Lewis pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 25 years in prison, and at the sentencing, Ollison did a surprising thing: He read a statement telling Lewis he forgave him.
“I have this choice to hate you or not,” Ollison said at the sentencing. “I choose not to. I don’t hate you, Denzel. I hate what you did, most certainly. But I still think your life is just as precious as the next person’s. No life means more than another’s. None of us are perfect.”
Ollison told ESPN that he still hopes Lewis can make something of his life.
“I really would tell him to try and get rid of whatever demons he has inside of him, try to find God,” Qadree said. “If you don’t want to believe in God, you want to believe in something. Try to find whatever it is that would bring peace to him and help him. It’s a lot deeper. If the point of prison is to rehabilitate, then let it do that. Come out 20, 25 years from now and be a different person if you get another chance.”
Although we don’t know yet what kind of NFL player Ollison will turn out to be, that message says a lot about what kind of man the Falcons drafted.