Ollie has had many leads to follow ... including his dad's

Glastonbury - One can't miss it, the letters "R.I.P" painted in white letters on the back of Jalen Ollie's cleats.

It's his tribute to Elisabeth Jane Modlesky, his friend and Glastonbury High School classmate who was killed in a one-car accident over the summer.

"She was a huge friend since sixth grade," Ollie said. "Just hearing that next morning (about her death), it really hurt my heart."

Ollie, a senior, is Glastonbury's starting quarterback and will try to lead the Tomahawks to an upset victory over visiting Norwich Free Academy - the state's fourth-ranked team - on Friday night. The game will be live-streamed on theday.com starting at 6:15 p.m.

For Ollie, life has become a shared experience filled with people who have influenced his life. He has been impacted by his father, mother and Modlesky.

From his father, UConn men's basketball coach Kevin Ollie, Jalen learned determination.

From his mother, Stephanie, Jalen learned the value of an education.

From Modlesky, Jalen learned about the fragility of life.

The Ollies moved around when Kevin Ollie played in the NBA. They lived in Chicago, Cleveland and Minnesota, but Glastonbury became home base for Jalen after third grade.

"(My dad) usually left around October and came back around the summer," Jalen said. "I used to cry when I was little (and he left), but I grew out of it. Right during school I couldn't see him. Whenever I saw him. I took advantage of it."

Kevin Ollie played 13 seasons in the NBA for 11 teams, bouncing from Dallas to Seattle to New Jersey. He was brought to Cleveland in 2003 to mentor a rookie named LeBron James.

Ollie didn't have a glamorous career and was often fighting for a job. He was waived six times, had five seasons where he played for two different teams, and was traded three times.

"I don't know how he did it," Jalen Ollie said. "He taught me a lot getting cut from basketball teams and just keeping going. Not even stopping, not stopping working out. That's perseverance right there from my father."

Kevin Ollie said, "I give him advice, but I stay out of it (football). It's all about leadership. I don't talk about mechanics and all that stuff because I'm not a quarterback. He has a coach. I just tell him about leadership and attitude and how to tell his team to be prepared for anything that comes and what coach tells you to do, just do it. That's basically what I try to tell him, just be a father and stay away from football."

Stephanie Ollie has been a constant in Jalen's life, providin a daily presence when Kevin was on the road. Like Kevin, she's shown Jalen about hard work. She's a nurse in the cardiac arrest unit at St. Francis Hospital in Hartford.

"She takes care of me," Jalen Ollie said. "She taught me a lot throughout childhood.

"School work is a huge thing to my family. As and Bs always. Honor roll. If I get below a B, I can't play any sports. Education is a huge factor, especially to my mother. My dad has been helping me out with that, too. I was below a B a couple of times, and I learned my lesson not going to practices and stuff."

Modlesky had been Jalen's friend since sixth grade. She was a popular student who played lacrosse.

"Everyone loved her," Jalen said. "She was a real fun person. Great smile, great laugh. Just a great personality all-around."

Modlesky, 17, died early on July 14 when the SUV she was driving went off the road and hit several oak trees. An open parking space has been kept for her at the school.

"It affected the whole Glastonbury community," Ollie said. "The wake, many people came. It was hot outside, but everybody waited in line just to give condolences to the family. She meant a lot to everyone.

"Don't take life for granted. You have to be blessful, thankful in God every day. That's how I feel about it. I know she would want me and the rest of the Class of 2014 to be successful at life; successful at high school.

"This senior year is for her."

n.griffen@theday.com

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