If you do not know the name James Conner, sit right down and be inspired by the story of his life. It is truly exceptional and inspirational no matter your age or interests.
Hometown and High School
Enter James Conner hails from Erie, Pennsylvania, where he attended McDowell High school in the suburbs of Erie. At McDowell High School, he was a force on both the defensive and offensive side of the football, playing as both a defensive lineman and a running back. In his senior year, he rushed for 1,680 yards on just 155 carries and scored a total of 26 touchdowns.r text here...
Committing To a Legendary College Program
Enter Conner committed to attend a great football program, and one close to his hometown at the University of Pittsburgh, in August 2012. The football program at Pittsburgh is well renown and has turned out Pro Football Hall of Fame legends such as Mike Ditka, Dan Marino, and Tony Dorsett.your text here...
2013 and 2014 Freshman and Sophomore Years of College
Coming into the University of Pittsburgh as a true freshman, Conner played in all but one game and was awarded an MVP in the Little Caesar’s Bowl. In that game, Conner had a season-high 26 carries, producing 226 yards and a touchdown. The following year he won ACC Player of the year, with an astounding season of 1,765 yards with 26 touchdowns. In a highlight game against Duke, Conner ran for 263 yards and 3 touchdowns.
2015 Junior Year of College
Unfortunately, James Conner’s year was cut short due to an MCL tear during Pittsburgh’s opening game against Youngstown State. During the rehab process for the MCL tear, it was discovered that Conner had Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, and had to begin his battle with cancer soon after. After a successful recovery from cancer, Conner was able to play the opening game of his senior year. He played for the entire season, inspiring his team as a leader.
Announcing for the NFL Draft
In December 2016, James Conner announced that he would be applying for the 2017 NFL Draft. Coming into the draft, it was announced that Conner was in the middle of the pack for running backs. He was compared in value to picks like Jamaal Williams out of Brigham Young University and Alvin Kamara out of the University of Tennessee.
NFL Scouting Combine and Pro Day
Conner attended the Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, but only performed a few of the drills. His 40-yard dash was recorded at 4.65 seconds, which was a middle of the pack score. His Bench Press was recorded at 20 repetitions. Most of his other measurable drills also produced similar average results. After the Combine and Pro Day, Conner was expected to be a 5th round draft pick.
The NFL Draft
In surprising fashion, James Conner was selected by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the third round of the draft, the 105th pick overall. Being selected by his hometown team was of great value to Conner, and he was extremely pleased with going to his hometown NFL team.
Conner’s Rookie Season In 2017
After the NFL draft, Conner had a top-selling NFL jersey beating large names such as Von Miller, Marshawn Lynch, and even Tom Brady. By the start of the season, the Steelers had placed James Conner as the backup running back behind Le’Veon Bell. Conner’s MCL was re-injured during a game against Baltimore, requiring surgery and ending his season with only 144 rushing yards.
The 2018 NFL Season
Drama filled the Steeler’s locker room early in the season when Pittsburgh’s star rusher Le’Veon Bell did not show up for training camp or the first few games, thrusting Conner into the starting role at running back. He started the season off with a bang against Cleveland, recording 135 rushing yards and 2 touchdowns. In October, he was named AFC Offensive Player of the Month, showing his talent at the position.
His Battle with Cancer
The Battle Begins
Despite being so successful in college and now in the professional football league, Conner has a back story that is often overlooked. In his junior year at the University of Pittsburgh, James Conner was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. This is a battle that could not be fought on the field, but one that needed to be fought from the hospital, where he survived the disease and now fights to raise awareness about it.
Not Feeling Like A Champ
Conner’s junior year in college was a difficult one after he tore his MCL, ending his football season. During recovery from this injury, his coaches and training staff noticed that he was not bouncing back as expected. He was trying to lift weights and get back into football shape but kept feeling dizzy, and the swelling on his body seemed abnormal.
Pittsburgh coach, Patt Narduzzi, noticed the odd manner of Conner’s recovery and reached out to the team doctor to get to the bottom of the dilemma. After a few weeks of trying different antibiotics and medications to no avail, Conner finally asked to take an X-ray on his chest, this led to him taking a PET scan. The PET scan gave Conner an answer, but not one that he wanted to hear.
A Blessing in Disguise
Without the MCL injury, it is likely that the PET scan never would have been issued. The PET scan discovered the large tumor residing in James Conner’s chest. Connor believes that this knee injury is responsible for him being alive today. It is possible that he could have been tackled one day, awkwardly landing on his chest hard enough to rupture the tumor.
Scars Building Strength
Below Conner’s collarbone is a scar that many people face at some point in their lives. This scar is responsible for the tool that pumps the chemotherapy medication into a human facing cancer. Conner went through 12 rounds of chemotherapy, becoming weak with nausea as the medicine battled cancer inside him. Despite going through a treatment this hard, Conner would talk with fellow patients and inspire courage in their own battles against the disease.
Teammates of Conner watched on as he would show up to practice with a surgical mask to guard against germs. He became a rallying cry for his team, showing strength and perseverance by getting back on the field that following spring for non-contact spring practices. Kansas City Chiefs star, Eric Berry, who also fought Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, reached out and told Conner to get back out there as soon as he could, inspiring Conner to return to the field.
Even during his stays at the hospital, James Conner would urge the other patients around him to keep fighting and keep their spirits high. On May 23rd, Conner walked into the Hillman Cancer Center for his final scan. Everyone from the nurses to the radiologists waited on the doctor’s prognosis on his outcome. A call came through when Conner was with his mother in the car- he was cancer free, and he was ready to play football again.
James Conner's Inspirational Journey Back to Football
A Return to Greatness
James Conner’s story is an inspiring one. He was only 20 years old when he was going through most of his chemotherapy treatments and was still actively pursuing his dream of becoming an NFL running back. His senior year of college was productive at Pitt, rushing for 1,092 yards and receiving 302. He scored 20 touchdowns, a subtle nod to the age he was during the battle of his life.
Pittsburgh to Pittsburgh
Conner’s hometown of Erie, Pennsylvania sits 2 hours from 3 major NFL cities; Buffalo, Cleveland, and Pittsburgh. When Conner chose to attend Pittsburgh for college, it is likely that he was hoping to land in one of these cities to stay nearby to his family in Erie. When Steelers’ head coach, Mike Tomlin, called Conner to inform him they were selecting him as their running back of the 2017 draft, Conner was elated.
Thrust Into Stardom
After a quiet rookie season, 2018 led Conner into the limelight. With Pittsburgh Steelers star, Le’Veon Bell, missing for the first half of the year, Conner has had to pick up the slack. After his battle against cancer, fighting the strongest defensive lines in football is looking like a breeze for him. He sits at 771 yards rushing and 387 yards in the air only 9 games into the season. James Conner sits poised for a 1000 yard rushing season, no easy feat for a running back.
James Conner has had a triumphant return to football. Through his actions, he has inspired many to follow his willingness to fight against the terrible battle that cancer brings. Conner was a talented football star in college, but his true talent lies in the inspiration of others. Despite his battle in college, he managed to end his senior year and declare for the NFL draft, something that had seemed impossible while he laid in chemotherapy treatment centers.
The road ahead for James Conner will be an amazing one to witness. Conner will continue to inspire hope and optimism in people who need it the most. He is an amazing player and an amazing role model for fans on and off the field.