PITTSBURGH — It was an emotional day on the South Side on Wednesday, as Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi gave his team the news that many had learned on social media the night before.
Alex Officer, a former Pitt guard and center who had graduated after the 2017 season, has been diagnosed with bone cancer.
For some, like redshirt senior safety Dennis Briggs, who played with Officer for the last four seasons, Narduzzi’s announcement was the first that had heard the news.
“We’re keeping him in prayer and hoping the best for him,” Briggs said. “He has a lot of support from us. All we can do is keep him in prayer, hope the best for him and help him out.”
Running back Qadree Ollison is from Niagara Falls, New York, only about an hour from Officer’s hometown of Rochester, and the two formed a close bond when Ollison joined the Panthers in 2014.
“Us Western New York people take pride in where we come from,” Ollison said. “Me and ‘AO’ are so close it’s not even funny. He used to ride home with me back to Niagara Falls or I’d take him home to Rochester.
“We’re all pulling for him. He’s our brother. I’m praying for his family. I’m praying for him. Right there, that’s something that’s bigger than football. It makes you grateful for the opportunity that you have, everything that God has given you. It makes you really realize that no matter how bad you may thing you have it, there’s someone that has it worse than you somewhere.”
Ollison and many of his Pitt teammates have contributed to a GoFundMe page set up by Officer’s brother that hopes to raise $100,000 for his treatment.
Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi contributed $5,000 to the fundraiser, and former Pitt players Dorian Johnson and Ryan Lewis, who have been on NFL practice squads, each contributed $1,000.
Here’s more from Briggs and Ollison, as they keep their former teammate in their thoughts and prayers: