Profootballtalk.com, New York, NY – The Atlanta Falcons chose former University of Pittsburgh running back Qadree Ollison in the fifth round of this year’s National Football League (NFL) draft. Ollison is no stranger to news headlines not only because of his all-star performance at Pitt and his entry into the NFL, but also because of his personal story of forgiveness.
On Oct.14, 2017, a Saturday when Ollison was playing in a football game at Pitt, his 35-year-old brother Lerowne “Rome” Harris was shot and killed outside a gas station in Niagara Falls, NY. Police soon arrested Denzel Lewis for the murder based on security camera footage that clearly showed Lewis shooting Harris three times.
Lewis later pleaded guilty and at his sentencing hearing last August he was shocked, as was the entire courtroom, to learn that Ollison forgave him for killing his brother. Since he was unable to personally attend the hearing, Ollison wrote a letter that was read aloud at the hearing by his father:
“When I heard what happened, I was devastated like most would be when they hear that their brother’s life was taken. During that time, though, I didn’t feel an ounce of hate for whoever had did it.
Every single life is precious, no matter what they’ve done. I truly believe that. 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. 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.
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.”
At Canisius High School in Buffalo, NY, a Catholic college-preparatory school, Ollison set school records for rushing yards (4,117) and touchdowns (57) during his football career there. He was a two-time Class AA all-state selection and shared Buffalo News Player of the Year honors with teammate Ryan Hunter (now an offensive lineman for the NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs) after Canisius went undefeated and won the state championship his junior year.
Regarded as the top running back prospect in the state as a senior, Ollison had 14 Division I college scholarship offers when he committed to Pitt. After redshirting his first season, Ollison continued his success as soon as he hit the field for the Panthers. Coming in for an injured starter, Ollison, ran for 207 yards on 16 carries (all in the second half), a record for a Pitt freshman in a season opener.
Ollison was named Atlantic Coast Conference Rookie of the Year and became the fifth Pitt freshman to achieve a 1,000-yard season. In an effort to pay tribute to his brother, Ollison switched to a No. 30 jersey for his final year of eligibility at Pitt. No. 30 was the number Harris used to wear as a youth football player. Ollison gained 1,213 yards and scored 11 touchdowns on 194 carries in that jersey.
Yet perhaps even more impressive than Ollison’s ability as a 6-foot-1, 232-pound running back, now at the professional level, is his willingness to make forgiveness a priority.
Following a May 8, 2019 news article about Ollison’s act of forgiveness on the website Profootballtalk.com, an NBC Sports affiliate, a reader identified only as “mjtn” commented:
“Having forgiveness in one’s heart instead of hatred is a rare and highly admirable occurrence. The world would clearly be a better place if we could all live in such a way. This young man is wise beyond his years and already a role model. I thank him for showing the rest of us that it can be done.”
- Falcons rookie Qadree Ollison expresses forgiveness to his brother’s killer
- Atlanta Falcons rookie RB Qadree Ollison chooses forgiveness over hatred after brother’s murder
- Football, family and forgiveness: Qadree Ollison overcoming obstacles to honor late brother at Pitt
I find that whenever I forgive someone, it is never really over. What I mean is I can wake up weeks later and I am angry all over again. This is getting discouraging. What can I do to be rid of the anger so it does not return?
This is actually a more common question than you might imagine. Anger is uncomfortable for us and when it is intense, it can be unhealthy for us. Something to keep in mind is this: As you continually forgive, I mean truly persist, then the anger will diminish. It will move to a more healthy level. A key is for you to be in control of your anger rather than the anger to be in control of you. The emotion of anger may be with you for a long time, but the emotion of unhealthy anger will not be. For now, let us make this the goal—not to be entirely rid of the anger but to persist in forgiving until the anger is manageable. When anger comes to visit unexpectedly a week or a month from now, be prepared to forgive again. The more we practice forgiveness, the more quickly we actually forgive. So, please be encouraged.
For additional information, see The Four Phases of Forgiveness.
I suffer from chronic anxiety. Will this alter how I go through the forgiveness process relative to those who are not suffering in this way?
Sometimes our anxiety comes from not feeling safe. Sometimes our not feeling safe emerges when others treat us unfairly. In other words, you may be expecting poor treatment from others now, even those who usually are fair. A first step may be to think of one person who may have hurt you and at whom you still harbor resentment. You can forgive through the exact same pathway as described, for example, in the book, Forgiveness Is a Choice. With anger lessened, anxiety can diminish. Of course, this will vary for each person. We have to be gentle with ourselves as we learn to forgive, to give up anger, and to know with some confidence that we can meet the next interpersonal challenge with forgiveness, helping us to meet these challenges with less anxiety than in the past.
To learn more, read Forgiveness Is a Choice.
I was hurt in a 5-year relationship and now I am hesitant to get into any other relationship. Does this lack of courage on my part suggest that I have not forgiven the one who hurt me?
The issue here seems to be one of a lack of trust. You may or may not have forgiven the one with whom you were in a relationship for the 5 years. Even if you have completely forgiven, you still may lack trust and this is not a sign of unforgiveness. It is a sign that you know hurt is possible when you commit to others. Forgiveness can help with taking the risk and at the same time your using common sense in the new relationship, along with sincere acts of trustworthiness by the other, should help to slowly create a trust with the new person.
For additional information, see 8 Keys to Forgiveness.
I sometimes wonder if people need first to forgive themselves instead of others. Here is what I mean: Person A is dissatisfied with herself for past failings and so gets angry at others. Person A is displacing her anger now onto these others. If she could forgive herself, then maybe she could see that these others were not as unjust to her as she once thought.
This is definitely possible, but surely is not always the case. Sometimes, as we know, people are unjust to us and our disappointment within ourselves is not the cause of our anger toward these people .Yet, if you sense that Person A, someone you wish to help, is continually finding fault with many people and your sincere judgement is that these others are not behaving nearly as badly as Person A is saying, then yes, your plan of action seems reasonable. Gently ask Person A if she is dissatisfied with herself, perhaps she has broken her own standard. Self-forgiveness then may be the best place to start.
Learn more at Self-Forgiveness.