Steelers running back James Conner has faced his fair share of adversity, but his coaches, teammates and fans have no doubt he will bounce back yet again. The 6-foot-1 athlete is not planning to let fear determine his success heading into the 2020 NFL season.
James Conner’s Cancer Diagnosis
In 2015, Conner was the starting running back at The University of Pittsburgh. On Dec. 4 of that year, Conner was officially diagnosed with stage 2 Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
After suffering a torn medial collateral ligament (MCL), Conner went to see his doctor and to get additional testing. The doctor found tumors in his chest and neck. He told Conner that if he had not begun treatment when he did, he would have had a week to live based on the rate that the cancer was growing throughout his body.
“With cancer, it’s the first thing you think about when you wake up, and it’s the last you think about before you go to bed,” Conner said on a podcast hosted by Michael Seander.
Fortunately, Conner discovered he was cancer-free in May 2016, after just six months. He went on to play his final season at Pitt and was later selected by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the third round of the 2017 NFL Draft.
The Start of a Career Full of Injuries
Conner has had a rocky start to his NFL career that included several injuries.
During the 2019 season, he suffered a knee injury in Week 2. He later injured his shoulder in Week 8, which kept him out for the rest of the season.
Luckily for him, Conner has had plenty of time since March to continue rehabbing and working to get his health back to where it was prior to his injuries. When the coronavirus pandemic hit, he knew he could use each and every day to get better and take advantage of the downtime he had.
“I know James will enter the season healthy, but you know, can we complement it?” Steelers GM Kevin Colbert said. “We’ll see. But I’m not going in thinking we don’t have a starter-capable runner because I know James Conner is.”
Conner shared photos from a workout during quarantine via Twitter on May 28.
Remember shedding tears workin out because I couldn’t believe how tired I was and how much strength and energy I lost, but also tears because I was so thankful for 2nd chance & had the option to go hard… different type of feeling. Now I’m just on some healthy lifestyle vibes.. pic.twitter.com/pDqWH7jhEs
— James Conner (@JamesConner_) May 28, 2020
The images were a hit. They proved that Conner was working harder each and every day to gain his strength back.
Keeping Busy in Quarantine
Aside from hitting the gym, Conner has had his hands full during quarantine.
On June 16, Conner’s new book, “Fear is a Choice: Tackling Life’s Challenges with Dignity, Faith and Determination” hit the shelves.
In the memoir, Conner shares about his experience with cancer and how he overcame the struggles related to that battle.
“A lot of hard work went into making this book possible,” Conner said. “Now it’s here and to hear all of the positive feedback is amazing.”
Conner also recently bought his dad, Glen, a new truck and the video of his reaction went viral.
It was comforting for NFL fans to see in the midst of several chaotic months.
Despite being a cancer survivor, James Conner is not allowing fear of contracting the coronavirus to stop him from having the season he is striving for. Although he understands that it is a serious health concern and plans to follow NFL and team protocols, Conner feels healthy and ready to hit the field.
This will be the final year of Conner’s rookie contract. He is slated to be an unrestricted free agent in 2021.