When Ronald Ollie was 17 years old, he was mad at the world, angry with the fact life didn’t care about him. He refused to listen, consider the possibility that the people around him cared about his well being, and had a hard time caring about anything.
Ollie was also dealing with an abnormal environment that many 17-year-olds probably aren’t used to. He was attending East Mississippi Community College in Scooba, Miss., and was a member of the football team, but this wasn’t any ordinary football team.
Coached by Buddy Stephens, the Lions were at the height of their powers in the NJCAA. The program had built a reputation of garnering elite talent dismissed from Division I schools, and getting them back on their feet to transfer and get back in the spotlight, with hopes of one day making it to the NFL.
Entering 2015, Stephens and the Lions were coming off back-to-back title victories, and the school’s reputation caught the attention of Netflix, who decided to turn the football team into a reality show and document the lives of these young men, calling it “Last Chance U.”
Despite the various personalities on the team, Ollie became one of the main fixtures on the show due to his contagious personality and his potential on the field. The excess of followers on social media came pouring in, and on campus, the then-17-year-old became a celebrity.
“That’s kind of how it was,” Ollie said on Upon Further Review when asked what it was like dealing with the fame from the show. “I wasn’t understanding why because I was still dealing with life at the time. I was still going through things, stuff was still happening, I couldn’t grasp all of it, it was still new to me.”
Along with Ollie, the school counselor, Brittany Wagner, was a bright spot and helped many of the student-athletes — Ollie in particular — grow up.
For an angsty teenager, trying to find his place in the world, Wagner’s belief in Ollie impacted his life in ways he didn’t imagine possible. Countless hours were spent in her office; Wagner often times acting as his mother, pushing him to recognize his potential.
“Miss Brittany, she just let me know that I could do it,” Ollie said. “Just giving me the words of encouragement, making me push myself harder and just pushing myself to do the impossible. I never thought it was possible, but she kept telling me that it was, and I just kept trying and trying.”
The Shubuta, Miss., native had dreams of making it to the NFL, but academic troubles kept him from getting serious offers from Division I schools; however, he compiled an impressive resume during his time at EMCC and with some help from Miss Brittany, Ollie received an offer from Nicholls State, which he accepted.
Ollie played two seasons with the Nicholls Colonels, totaling 22 games, seven sacks, 20 tackles for loss, and 74 tackles. The 6-foot-2, 310-pound defensive lineman has always boasted freakish athleticism, and the skills necessary to make it to the NFL.
Thirty-two teams passed on Ollie during the 2019 NFL Draft, but that didn’t keep him down. As an undrafted free agent, he remained calm, and eventually received a call from the Baltimore Ravens who presented him with an offer to join their ranks.
The deal fell through.
“First I had — right after the draft — I got a call from Baltimore and a situation happened where they pulled the contract.,” he explained. “They said they were going to give it to somebody else.”
For so much of Ollie’s life, he thought he’d been dealt a bad hand, and no one cared. Yet, even with the rug pulled out from underneath him once again, he remained calm in the face of adversity once again.
And it paid off.
“Couple hours later I got a call from one of the [Raiders] scouts, and they asked me if I can come to [rookie] minicamp, and I said yeah most definitely," Ollie explained.
The defensive lineman continued, “Not knowing anything is the worst feeling that you can feel, just not knowing what’s next after everything is over it’s like, ‘What’s going to happen now?’ I just patiently waited it out and something happened.”
Once a troubled adolescent who didn’t have a care in the world, the opportunity to become an Oakland Raider was a triumph in itself. Over the span of four years, Ollie matured in many ways, and it’s fascinating for him to look back on his life in 2015 and think how far he’s come.
“It’s been crazy just to look at myself and how much I’ve grown from that, and it’s just like a big difference from then to now,” he said in a moment of reflection. “Like I said, life puts you through certain situations you have to learn from them, grow up from them and just keep on moving every day, and trying to be a better person every day.
“Back then I was young and just thought life didn’t care about me, so I was mad at the world. I didn’t care about too much, I just did my own thing and stayed in my own little world, and didn’t bother nobody, but just didn’t care about nothing.”
If Ollie could sit down with his former self and tell him one thing, it would be to listen.
Listen to the people who care about your well being.
It’s safe to say the 23-year-old sees the world differently now, and he’s living proof that no matter where you come from or where you get your start, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.
Now an undrafted free agent on a Raiders roster that desperately needs help stopping the run and help rushing the passer, Ollie has a legitimate chance to make the team.
Four years ago that seemed inconceivable.
You can listen to Ollie’s full interview on Upon Further Review below.