James Conner

University of Pittsburgh

Vitals: 6-2, 235-pound running back

Rare Disease Connection: A highly touted all-state high school player from Erie, Pennsylvania, Conner became a shining star in only two seasons at Pitt. In 2014 he was the ACC Player of the Year and his football future as a potential NFL player was burning bright. Then came a double dose of life reality that showed everyone the fabric of Conner the person. First he suffered an MCL injury in the first half of the opening game of 2015. His junior season was over, but the knee injury was only the beginning. In December of 2015, several months into his rehabilitation from the knee surgery, Conner announced he had another battle to win, too. His diagnosis with the rare disease Hodgkin’s lymphoma provided the 21-year-old with a completely new challenge. The combination of cancer treatments and ongoing rehabilitation of his injured right knee didn’t slow Conner down. He worked tirelessly on both fronts, overcoming every obstacle and managed to join the Panthers for 2016 spring practice in a limited role wearing a mask. In May, Conner announced he was cancer free and he was on schedule to return for the start of the 2016 season. He rushed for more than 1,000 yards this past season and was a first-team All ACC selection.

Read James’s uplifting story here!

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