By Mike Meiler firstname.lastname@example.org
Niagara Gazette — BUFFALO — Canisius High School running back Qadree Ollison made his collegiate decision Monday at a ceremony at the high school.
The Niagara Falls native will remain in Canisius’ blue and gold next fall, only it’ll be for the University of Pittsburgh Panthers, members of the Division I Atlantic Coast Conference.
Ollison had announced a final list of schools consisting of Pittsburgh, Penn State, Wisconsin, Syracuse and Rutgers on June 24, but recently had narrowed his choices down to Pitt and Penn State, according to his father, Wayne Ollison, and coach, Rich Robbins.
Both Wayne and Qadree Ollison took official visits to the two schools, watching Pitt host No. 11 Florida State on Sept. 2 at Heinz Field in a nationally-televised game before catching Penn State drub Eastern Michigan on Saturday.
It was Ollison’s second trip to Pitt, and he said it was the key point in his recruitment.
“When I first went down there, I didn’t have a feel for it really,” Ollison said. “I didn’t get a chance to see the real city.
“On the second time down, I got to tour the city a little more. ... It just felt like home.”
“They made him a top recruit on their board right from the beginning,” added Robbins, a Pittsburgh native. “Throughout the process, they’ve been really loyal.”
The Panthers share facilities with the NFL’s Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field. Their coach, Paul Chryst, is in his second season after being hired away from Wisconsin, where he served as offensive coordinator from 2005-11. Chryst’s Wisconsin teams were ranked in the top 20 nationally in rushing each of his final five seasons.
“They run a pro-style offense, some two-back sets,” Ollison said. “They don’t have a dominant running back in there right now, which gives me the opportunity to come in and compete for a job early.”
Pitt moved to the ACC from the Big East at the start of the 2013 season, which Ollison said weighed into his decision.
“It’s going to be great playing against some of the best teams in the country,” he said. “It’s probably the third best conference behind the (Southeastern Conference) and (The Big 10).”
Finally, Ollison added that he was excited about the Panthers’ potential. Chryst started nine true freshman against Florida State and already has 17 commits for 2014, including three offensive linemen.
For the Ollisons, who spent most of the last year attending camps, touring colleges and talking to coaches, the decision means a return to normalcy, at least for the immediate future.
“I feel good,” Qadree said. “... Now I can focus on my senior year.”
“A lot of people will see him putting on the (Pitt) hat, but they don’t see the work that went into it.” added Wayne. “(Qadree) is finally getting some of the rewards he’s worked for.”
“(Qadree) is finally getting some of the rewards he’s worked for,” added Wayne. “A lot
Canisius, ranked as the top AA team in New York State, travels to Rochester to take on Section V’s Aquinas at 7:30 p.m. Friday.Follow Gazette sports reporter Mike Meiler on Twitter @mikemeiler for updates on your local teams.