The idea came from Atlanta Falcons Coach Dan Quinn.

When jersey No. 30 became available Monday after the waiver of fullback Ricky Ortiz, Quinn suggested that it go to rookie running back Qadree Ollison as a way to honor his brother, who had worn the number as a youngster and died after being shot at a Niagara Falls, N.Y., gas station.

Lerowne Harris, Ollison’s older brother, died Oct. 14, 2017, after being shot three times, a crime for which Denzel K. Lewis of Niagara Falls pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter in May, 2018. Three months later, he was sentenced to up to 25 years in prison for what the judge said was “an assassination more than a murder.”

Police reports and accounts of the crime showed that Harris, who was 14 years older than Ollison, fled across the parking lot after being shot, then was placed in a car and driven to Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center, where he died. A youth league star, Harris had dropped out of high school before his junior year; his younger brother later used football as a way out of housing projects in Niagara Falls.

“I grew up in a rough neighborhood, like any type of projects where drugs, and gangs, and violence are evident,” Ollison said, via ESPN. “Really, just to be blunt, my brother got caught up in that lifestyle.”

Ollison, a fifth-round pick by the Falcons out of Pittsburgh, and his father, Wayne, differed over Lewis’s punishment, with Ollison writing an emotional note to the judge explaining why he could not hate Lewis, with whom he had attended middle school.

“For some reason, you thought it was right to go and gun down my brother that morning of Oct. 14. You had that choice. My brother, at gunpoint, didn’t have a choice to live. It wasn’t up to him. He lost the two greatest things God gives us as people: He lost his ability to choose, and he lost his life,” Ollison wrote. “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.”

Wayne Ollison described graphic videos of the crime for the court. “He was murdered in cold blood,” he told Judge Richard C. Kloch (via the Niagara Gazette). “Shot three times, your honor, twice in the back as he ran for his life. I wish I could have been there, your honor. I would have taken every one of those bullets that the defendant discharged from his gun if it would mean that my son, Lerowne, could be standing here today.”

His father may have felt differently, but he said he was proud of Qadree.

“It just shows that he’s a special guy,” Wayne said of his son, again, via ESPN. “I’m telling you as a father, I didn’t have that forgiveness in my heart. Qadree understood that and said, ‘Well, Dad, one day you will get there.’ It takes a special person to lose their older brother, their idol, and still be able to put your head down and move forward.”

Qadree, who had been wearing No. 32, will now move forward with a number that honors his brother and unites his family.

“They’ve got to call and ask the league, but [Quinn] said it shouldn’t be a problem,” Ollison told ESPN, saying that the request could take five to seven days. “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.”

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