The Cowboys got to work on Wednesday putting together their practice squad, mostly signing players they had waived the day before. But there was one name that came from outside the team that offered up plenty of intrigue, and that was running back Qadree Ollison.
Source: #Cowboys signing RB Qadree Ollison to the practice squad.— Doug Kyed (@DougKyed) August 31, 2022
Ollison was a fifth-round pick out of the University of Pittsburgh back in 2019. Notably, he was drafted by the Falcons, whose head coach at the time is now the Cowboys defensive coordinator. Dan Quinn was known to have final say on draft decisions for the Falcons, so he signed off on selecting Ollison, in addition to coaching him for the next season and a half. That familiarity undoubtedly played a role in Ollison’s signing in Dallas, as well as highlighting the growing influence of Quinn within the team headquarters.
Ollison committed to the Pitt Panthers after playing high school ball in New York. As a freshman, Ollison was pushed into a starting role when James Conner (now with the Cardinals) got hurt. Ollison responded by accumulating 1,121 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns on 212 carries. He reverted back to a rotational rusher the next two years, but earned the starting gig heading into his senior season. Ollison once again came up big, posting 1,213 yards and 11 touchdowns on 194 carries.
Ollison was known in college for being a vicious downhill runner, frequently breaking tackles and picking up blitzes. His lack of a real second gear caused him to fall to the fifth round, but Quinn’s Falcons were happy to take him and slot him in as a short-yardage runner. In his rookie year, Ollison carried the ball 22 times for just 50 yards, but he scored four touchdowns and ran for six first downs.
Ollison’s usage dropped the next year as Todd Gurley became the starter for the Falcons, and he was stuck behind free agent acquisitions Cordarrelle Patterson and Mike Davis last year under new head coach Arthur Smith. That didn’t improve this preseason, as Ollison ran for just 77 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries in Atlanta’s three games. That led to being cut, at which point the Cowboys were more than happy to snatch him up.
Coming out of college, Ollison was widely regarded for his intangibles as well. Both of his parents played basketball collegiately, and his father was also a coach. As such, Ollison showcased a high football IQ by the time he declared for the draft. He also brought with him a tragic and inspiring story, which Ollison wrote about himself while with the Falcons.
Good special teams player, coach's son, smart, versatile, powerful, good contact balance, and better than advertised short area quickness for his size. https://t.co/YCHGOvt3aA— Matt Waldman (@MattWaldman) August 31, 2022
Ollison combined all of his experiences to become a gritty, do-what-it-takes kind of player. There’s little doubt that this approach endeared him to Quinn during the 2019 draft process, and it’ll soon do to the same for Mike McCarthy. Ollison isn’t about to challenge Ezekiel Elliott or Tony Pollard, or even special teamer Rico Dowdle. But he offers valuable depth and will be an even more valuable presence in the locker room.
Just last year, the Cowboys had two different running backs in JaQuan Hardy and Ito Smith (himself a fellow former Falcons player) come up from the practice squad and score a touchdown in a game. There’s no guarantee Ollison will get the same opportunity, but the Cowboys know it pays to have someone who can help out in a pinch. Ollison is exactly that.