Canisius standout running back Qadree Ollison began the announcement of his college decision by saying: “I’m going to be leaving Canisius next year, and taking off the blue and gold.”
He ended it with:
“I’m looking forward to enjoying the rest of my senior year here at Canisius. And I can’t wait to be rocking the blue and gold again at Pittsburgh.”
Ollison announced that he was verbally committing to the University of Pittsburgh during a Monday ceremony at the school, a decision that just felt right to the 6-foot-1, 220-pound running back – right down to the school colors.
“When I went on my visit there, I’ve been there two or three times, it felt like a great place to be,” said Ollison, a Niagara Falls native who last year was named The News co-Player of the Year with Canisius lineman Ryan Hunter. “I had a really nice relationship with the coaches, I had a really nice feel for the campus.
“I think those are the things that ultimately make your decision. Because every place is going to have nice facilities, great academics, but how do you feel when you go there? You know, do you feel like you can live at that place for the next four years and potentially the rest of your life.”
Ollison had cut a list of 15 Division I (Football Bowl Subdivision) scholarship offers to five finalists. The other four were: Penn State, Rutgers, Syracuse and Wisconsin. When he made his decision, he took a white “PITT” baseball cap from under the podium and put it on.
The opportunity to play right away was another factor, as was the proximity of Pittsburgh to Buffalo. Ollison’s feel for Pittsburgh was also aided by Canisius coach Rich Robbins, a native of the Pittsburgh area.
“He went to North Allegany and when he went down with me, he showed me around the city and showed me everything,” said Ollison, who was joined by Robbins during his official visit last Monday, which included a sideine view of Pitt’s loss to Florida State on Heinz Field.
“I’m from the area and know a lot of people down there, and when we were down there for a few visits I was able to tell him the good restaurants and different things like that,” said Robbins, who said he stayed neutral while Qadree and his father, Wayne, went through their options. “‘Q’ and Wayne didn’t leave any stone unturned – they know how many linemen are in the program, how many running backs. It really came down to a family, comfortable atmosphere. We kind of have a family atmosphere at Canisius, he felt some similar things were happening there.”
Ollison said that he did not have a solid No. 1 choice throughout the recruiting process.
“It jumped around a lot,” said Ollison, who turned 17 years old Sunday. “You have to look at what other recruits are doing. A lot of kids went to a school that I probably had as my No. 1, then they had two running backs commit, so they moved further down the chart and other schools moved up.”
Ollison said that No. 1 at that time was Rutgers and also noted Wisconsin had two running backs commit as well.
“I’m not afraid of competition. I’m not afraid of it,” Ollison said. “But I’d rather go somewhere where there’s not as much competition – it’s easier going in with only two backs than going in with four.”
He said of Penn State, where Canisius grad John Urschel is a standout starting lineman, “I liked Penn State all the way down to the end.
“John’s great. He’s a great guy. But at the end of the day, this was going to be my decision. It was tough saying no to some of the other schools – especially when I made my top five and saying no to those other 10. It was definitely tough.”
Ollison said he told only his brother, Wayne Jr., of his decision before announcing it at the podium before media, classmates and teammates in the auditorium. He made his announcement, put on a the baseball cap and thanked his father and his family as well as Canisius, his coaches and teammates.
Last Friday, Ollison broke 2012 grad Mercer Timmis’ Canisius career points scoring record (he now has 244 to break the mark of 238) after scoring four touchdowns and running for 195 yards on 20 carries in the Crusaders’ 42-15 season-opening win at McQuaid. Ollison is now tied with Timmis atop the all-time touchdown list with 39, and he is 203 yards away from Timmis’ career rushing mark.
Canisius and Ollison take on defending Section V Class AA champion Aquinas in Rochester at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
Today’s announcement is just a verbal commitment. The official signing period begins Feb. 5, 2014.