Qadree Ollison spent the NFL draft doing what he’s always done when the league conducts its annual selection meeting.
He watched. In fact, the Atlanta Falcons running back and Niagara Falls native made it an event.
He and his friends followed so closely that they tried to guess each team’s pick before the selection based on team needs. They also did their own mock drafts, a project Ollison said he aced.
“I had the best one,” he said via phone from Atlanta on Tuesday.
Of course, testing prognosticating skills is just part of the reason Ollison watches the draft.
“It’s always motivated me, seeing people reach their lifelong dream,” said Ollison, a former Canisius High School star and 2012 Buffalo News Co-Player of the Year. “I just enjoy rooting for everybody in that situation.”
The University of Pittsburgh product had folks rooting for him last year. His call came during the fifth round when the Falcons selected him No. 152 overall on the third day of the draft.
“That’s all I was thinking about,” Ollison said. “I just kept saying to myself a year ago … 'I really got drafted.' It was crazy. It was a real-life realization moment.”
It led to more moments for Ollison, including making the Falcons’ 53-man roster out of training camp and scoring his first NFL touchdown on his first carry.
Ollison showed promise during his rookie campaign, as he was used mostly in short yardage situations. He rushed 22 times for 50 yards and four touchdowns. He earned 56 snaps on offense and 98 on special teams, according to Pro Football Reference. He was inactive for the Falcons’ first eight games.
He made his debut Nov. 10 against New Orleans. He scored on his first carry a week later in a 29-3 win over Carolina. Three of his four touchdowns came in victories. In six of the Falcons' seven wins, Ollison was active on game day.
“I think the first year was a good year,” he said. “I learned a lot just getting to sit and watch. When I got my opportunity, I made the most of it. …. Started slow and finished strong.”
Ollison wants to build on that finish. Usually organized team activities provides young players with a chance to start that process, showing coaches the improvement they’ve made. But this offseason is different because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Teams are conducting virtual OTAs, which allow teams to meet and review or add to the playbook via Zoom video meetings. Players work out on their own with guidance from team trainers.
“If you’re not on the field, you can’t really show it (your improvement),” Ollison said. “Staying in shape is all you can do right now.
“Everybody wants to play football. … You just miss it. You miss being in the same meeting room and weight room with everyone.”
Ollison plays for the Falcons, but he has a message for Bills Mafia. They’re going to love cornerback Dane Jackson.
The Bills selected Ollison’s former Pitt teammate, who comes from Coraopolis, a small town 16 miles from the Steel City, in the seventh round.
“I think he’s going to have a long career,” Ollison said. “He’s smart, tall and athletic. You don’t really see those type of corners. I think he’s going to be a great special teams player, too.”
Ollison and Jackson crossed paths on more than one occasion in practice while in college.
“He’s a good tackler,” Ollison said. “He’s a good kid. He’s going to be a great teammate. He’s a hard worker from a blue-collar town. He’s just an overall good person.”