Many have been awaiting the day that Pitt star running back James Conner would make his return to the football field.
Unfortunately that return has been put on hold as at a press conference on Friday, Conner announced that he was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma this week.
“When I heard those words — ‘You have cancer’ — I admit I was scared,” Conner said. “But after thinking about it for a bit, I realized that fear is a choice. I choose to not fear cancer. I choose to fight it and I will win.”
Conner, who was flanked at the press conference by his mother, doctor, several teammates and Pitt head football coach Pat Narduzzi seemed in good spirits and had a very positive attitude towards the diagnosis.
“Cancer started the fight, and James is going to finish it with all of his coaches and teammates involved,” Narduzzi said.
Dr. Stanley Marks said for a person Conner’s age in the great shape that he is in, the cure rate is between 85 and 90 percent.
Conner found out he had cancer Thanksgiving morning, but will have a lot of support from his family and the University of Pittsburgh.
“Know this: James Conner will not face this challenge alone,” Narduzzi said in the release. “We are all going to be right beside him every step of the way. And the day that he is declared cancer free, we will all celebrate like we do after one of his patented touchdown runs. James has never backed down from an opponent, and we all know this is a battle he will win.”
Kansas City Chiefs safety Eric Berry was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma last season and made his return to the field this year. Conner isn’t the first Pittsburgh athlete to be diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma as Pittsburgh Penguins owner Mario Lemieux also had it in the 1980’s.
Conner missed almost all of this season after sustaining a knee injury against Youngstown State in the opening game of the season. He was coming off a 2014 season in which he was named the ACC Player of the Year after rushing for 1,765 yards and 26 touchdowns as a sophomore.
“I will play football again,” Conner said.
After getting the chance to talk to Conner on multiple occasions and knowing what type of person he is, if he says he will play again, I would believe him.
“One year ago today I was asking myself, ‘Why me?’ Why was I the lucky one to be getting the ACC Player of the Year award when I had so many teammates who deserved it as much as me? Now one year later, instead of asking, ‘Why me?’ I am saying, ‘Why not me?’ I can beat cancer.”
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