BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — In this day and age, a high school football program is lucky if it can send one former player to the NFL. Well, Canisius must sit at the end of a rainbow, because two former Crusaders, Ryan Hunter and Qadree Ollison, have both made the 53 man rosters for the Kansas City Chiefs and Atlanta Falcons, respectively.
“It’s very very cool, it’s mind blowing. Qadree and Ryan, I didn’t know them, I didn’t play with them, but they’ve come in to speak with us and me about the work that they’ve put in to get to where they need to be, and just how special it is and what they’ve done,” senior running back CJ Ozolins said.
“It’s an honor to even be in the same school as them. To come and produce what Coach Robbins has done for them, and what he’s done for us. It’s just really a blessing.”
“It’s all really exciting, over the last 10 years we’ve put a ton of kids out into college football, we have guys playing all over the country in Division I, II and III,” head coach Rich Robbins said. “I’m not sure if any other school in New York has two guys that are on active rosters in the NFL right now.”
Ryan Hunter graduated from Canisius in 2013, and went on to play football at Bowling Green. Hunter was an undrafted free agent following graduation, and was signed to the Kansas City Chiefs practice squad in 2018. Kansas City signed him again in January.
Qadree Ollison played football at the University of Pittburgh after graduating from Canisius in 2014. After a prolific senior season in which he ran for 1,213 yards and 11 touchdowns on 194 carries, Ollison was drafted in the 5th round by the Atlanta Falcons.
“It couldn’t happen to two better guys. Qadree and Ryan are really hard working, humble guys who just worked really hard over the last few years, so to be able to share that with them and their family over the last weekend, it was emotional,” Coach Robbins said.
“It’s the beginning of a journey for those guys and it’s pretty special. That’s all we try to do here, we really get guys in and we prepare them to be successful in whatever they want to do. If they’re going to be an architect, an accountant, or play in the NFL, we want to make sure we’re helping boys become men and that they’re going to be successful people.”
“It’s a blessing to be here in the first place, to be a part of this program,” senior safety Michael Cashatt said. “Then when you see guys like that, who went out there and are doing it, they’re making it to where all of us want to go, it’s truly a blessing.”
“Especially when you get to meet those guys, they’re not boastful, they’re very humble, and I believe Canisius installed that in them. I’m glad I got to meet them and it’s great motivation going into the season,” Cashatt said.
The success of the two former Crusaders making it to the big leagues is a motivator for the current Crusaders.
“I’m sure they’re all thinking about it and dreaming about it, we try to keep their focus on Canisius and what we’re doing right now, this is certainly a program where if you’re coachable and you work hard and you do the right things, you’re going to get opportunities,” Coach Robbins said. “College opportunities can certainly turn into professional opportunities someday, and that’s really what’s happened for those two guys.”
“Qadree is from Niagara Falls, Ryan is from all the way up north in Canada, and they came here and wanted to get better at their craft, learn how to play football at a higher level, and we were able to help them with that, and the skies the limit for those guys.”
“It’s a little big of a chip on our shoulder, it’s a little bit of pressure for us, especially just to follow in that,” Ozolins said, “I think we can get the job done and we can at least fill up halfway to what they’ve done and I think we can accomplish some pretty nice things here.”
The Crusaders open up the 2019 season on the road in Cleveland, Ohio taking on Euclid.