Qadree Ollison on Damar Hamlin: ‘That’s my little brother’

Millions watched – and agonized and prayed and cried – after the Bills’ Damar Hamlin collapsed on a football field and was urgently attended to by medical personnel after suffering a cardiac arrest.

For those with a personal connection to Hamlin, including Qadree Ollison, the incident during the “Monday Night Football” game against the Bengals was even more painful.

Hamlin, a defensive back, fell after making a tackle. After being attended to for nearly an hour, during which his heartbeat was restored, he was taken by ambulance to the University of Cincinnati Medical Center and listed in critical condition. The NFL later postponed the game.

“Yeah, that’s my little brother,” Ollison said during a phone interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Tuesday. “It’s extremely tough. I think everybody can agree that they have never seen (anything) like that on a football field.”

Hamlin and Ollison were college teammates at the University of Pittsburgh from 2016-19. Ollison, a running back, was drafted by the Falcons in 2019 and now plays for the Cowboys.

Ollison said players know the risk of playing the physical and violent sport of football. It doesn’t make the pain of an awful injury any less.

“One thing about football is that you know it’s a violent sport and you see people get hurt all the time,” Ollison said. “There is some satisfaction in like seeing somebody get up or be alert.”

Running back Qadree Ollison, now a member of the Cowboys, was drafted by the Falcons in 2019. (Jason Getz /

Credit: Jason Getz /

icon to expand image

Credit: Jason Getz /

Ollison recalled the 2017 headfirst collision of former Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier, which left him paralyzed for several months.

“The fact that he was alive and breathing and alert brought comfort to everybody,” Ollison said. “Obviously, he lost his career because of it. Something about just knowing that person is going to get up or be alert or be awake when they get taken off in the ambulance or whatever it is, it kind of makes you feel better.”

The Bills announced that Hamlin suffered a cardiac arrest, was sedated and listed in critical condition. No further update has been given.

The incident sent shockwaves throughout football – at all levels. The NFL is nearing the end of the regular season, and the playoffs are approaching. The College Football Playoff National Championship game between Georgia and TCU will be played Monday. A pall hangs over the sport.

“As far as me just watching it, you always think, as far as sports, I’ve never seen anything like that, as far as a dude’s heart stopping,” Georgia defensive back Javon Bullard said Tuesday. “I didn’t know that was even possible in football. My prayers go out to him and his family and the Bills organization.”

Ollison said the dramatic images and video from the incident, including teammates clearly crying while Hamlin was being attended to, hit him hard.

“I think that’s the first time in my life, and for a lot of people, they’ve really seen somebody not respond in that way,” Ollison said. “It’s tough because he’s a friend. I consider him family. I’m just praying for some good news here soon.”

On the average, there are about 30 healthcare providers at every NFL stadium on game day, according to the NFL’s operations manual. There is a specialized squad of medical professionals, including team physicians, unaffiliated medical staff and physicians from the local area, that watch the field for potential injuries and is available to provide immediate care to players at every NFL game. If a similar situation happened at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the player would be taken to Grady Memorial Hospital, which is 1.7 miles away.

Hamlin played at Pittsburgh Central Catholic and elected to stay at home for college.

“He was a hero in his community,” Ollison said. “He’s a Pittsburgh kid. He had every offer in the country coming out of high school, he was a star recruit and he chose to stay home because he wanted to. ... From what I understand, he wanted to be there for his little brother Damir. He wanted to be close to him so that he could watch him really live out his dream and be like motivation for him. He’s super, super, really family oriented. His mom, Nina, and his pops (Mario), he’s got a story if you really know him.”

– Doug Roberson contributed to this report.

For more content about the Atlanta Falcons

On Facebook at Atlanta Falcons News Now

On Instagram at DorlandoLed

Atlanta Falcons coverage on The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The Bow Tie Chronicles

Atlanta Falcons 2022 schedule

Sept. 11 Saints 27, Falcons 26

Sept. 18 Rams 31, Falcons 27

Sept. 25 Falcons 27, Seahawks 23

Oct. 2 Falcons 23, Browns 20

Oct. 9 Buccaneers 21, Falcons 15

Oct. 16 Falcons 28, 49ers 14

Oct. 23 Bengals 35, Falcons 17

Oct. 30 Falcons 37, Panthers 34 OT

Nov. 6 Chargers 20, Falcons 17

Nov. 10 Panthers 25, Falcons 15

Nov. 20 Falcons 27, Bears 24

Nov. 27 Commanders 19, Falcons 13

Dec. 4 Steelers 19, Falcons 16


Dec. 18 Saints 21, Falcons 18

Dec. 24 Ravens 17, Falcons 9

Jan. 1 Falcons 20, Cardinals 19

Jan. 8 vs. Tampa Bay, 1 p.m.