Falcons RB swaps number to honor slain brother

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Atlanta Falcons coach Dan Quinn gave rookie running back Qadree Ollison permission to switch numbers from No. 32 to No. 30 so Ollison could honor his late brother, who was slain in 2017.

Ollison's older brother, LeRowne Harris, wore No. 30 as a youth league standout in Niagara Falls, New York. Ollison switched from No. 37 to No. 30 at Pittsburgh last season in memory of Harris, who was shot three times -- twice in the back -- in a gas station parking lot. Harris was 35.

It was Quinn's idea to approach Ollison about the number change following Monday's practice. The number became available after the Falcons waived fullback Ricky Ortiz with an injury settlement.

Ollison said he appreciated his coach's kind gesture.

"They've got to call and ask the league, but [Quinn] said it shouldn't be a problem,'' Ollison told ESPN. "A number is a number, but this means a little bit more to me. It's going to be really nice to have that. It's going to be exciting for everybody, just wearing that number and what it represents to me and my family.''

Top running back Devonta Freeman can relate to Ollison. Freeman wears the No. 24 to represent his late aunt, Tamekia N. Brown, who died of a heart attack at age 24.

"I definitely respect it, for him to represent his brother like that,'' Freeman said of Ollison. "Everything I do and when I perform, it's about my family, my auntie, and success for generations.''

The request through the league could take five to seven days, so there is no guarantee Ollison will have the new number by Sunday's season opener at Minnesota. He should, however, have the No. 30 for the Falcons' home opener against the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 2.

The 6-foot-1, 232-pound Ollison, a fifth-round draft pick, is expected to be a contributor in his first season, particularly as a power back in short-yardage situations. Quinn also said Ollison "passed the test'' in an audition at fullback, although the Falcons signed veteran fullback Keith Smith on Monday after releasing Ortiz.

Ollison had two rushing touchdowns in the preseason and a long run of 16 yards. Quinn expects a run balance this season with four capable running backs -- Freeman, Ito Smith, Ollison and Brian Hill -- and a revamped offensive line playing under new offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter.