Pitt Star RB James Conner Diagnosed With Hodgkins Lymphoma; Pledges To Fight Cancer And Be Back On The Football Field


Jan 2, 2015; Fort Worth, TX, USA; Pittsburgh Panthers running back James Conner (24) goes in for 5-yard touchdown against the Houston Cougars during the second half of the 2015 Armed Forces Bowl at Amon G. Carter Stadium. Houston won 35-34. Mandatory Credit: Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports

When a 1:30pm press conference was announced by Pitt football regarding James Conner, everyone began to speculate whether Conner had decided to declare for the NFL Draft or return to Pitt for his senior season.

Instead, Conner, the 2014 ACC Player of the Year, made an awful announcement that he had been diagnosed with cancer, particularly Stage 2 Hodgkins Lymphoma in his neck and chest.

From that announcement, it really shows how minor a football decision can be compared to a fight with cancer.

With his mother, doctor, and head coach Pat Narduzzi by his side, James indicated, “I choose to not fear cancer. I will play football again.”

Conner found out about the diagnosis on Thanksgiving morning.

Several of Conner’s teammates attended the conference in support of one of their leaders.

This was not the way James wanted it to be, had he decided to return to Pitt next season from a season-ending MCL injury this year. Regardless, James was thankful to be supported by the Pitt family and some of the best doctors in the world at UPMC.

Conner will begin chemotherapy on Tuesday and it will last six months.  Dr. Stan Marks indicated that there is an 85 to 95% chance for recovery.

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As for some reactions on Twitter:

Coach Pat Narduzzi: “Cancer started the fight and James Conner is going to finish it! #ConnerStrong”

Pittsburgh Steelers: “The entire Steelers family stands with James Conner.  Our thoughts and prayers are with you.  #BurghStrong #BeatCancer.”

Pittsburgh Pirates: “Sending our prayers and support to Pitt Football’s James Conner #BurghStrong #BeatCancer”

Steelers Cam Heyward: “This guy is one of my heroes! James Conner keep fighting brother, I’m praying for you #beatcancer”

Pitt basketball head coach Jamie Dixon: “Thoughts and prayers go out to James Conner today.  The entire Pitt community including Pitt basketball is behind you.  #ConnerStrong

Pitt legend Tony Dorsett: “James Conner, you’ve been a winner all your life.  I know you’re a fighter & will win this battle.”

Mario Lemieux: “Best wishes to #Pitt RB James Conner in his fight against Hodgkin’s – stay strong!”

Penn State football: “Nittany Nation is sending our thoughts and prayers to the Pitt football family and James Conner. #BeatCancer”

NC State football: “Our thoughts & prayers are w/ Pitt football’s James Conner. The #PACK is pulling for you!”

PA Governor Tom Wolf: “We’re sending thoughts and strength to James Conner – a Pitt football star and Erie, PA native – in his fight against Hodgkins Lymphoma.”

Clemson coach Dabo Sweeney and UNC coach Larry Fedora expressed their thoughts through the ACC Digital Network.

Eric Berry of the Kansas City Chiefs was diagnosed with this cancer in early December last year and was cleared to play football in late July of this year.

Conner took to Twitter with a few posts: “The will of God will never take you where the grace of God will not protect you.  Ready to whoop cancer! Love yall! My teammates mean the world to me.  Show much love from my brothers.  Can’t wait to take the field with them again as a Pitt Panther!”

Cancer is definitely messing with the wrong guy.  Send a prayer to James (@JamesConner_ on Twitter) and show him how much his Pitt family cares.

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I cannot wait to cheer for him next season after he beats the hell out of this disease, in a similar fashion to defenders in his way on the gridiron.