PITTSBURGH (AP/KDKA) – James Conner caught one touchdown and ran for another in his return from a battle with cancer to lead Pittsburgh to a 28-7 win over Villanova on Saturday.
The moment the Pitt Panthers came out the tunnel in Heinz Field, you could feel the excitement, especially for number 24 running back James Conner. His friends and family were there to cheer him on all the way.
“A little butterflies right now. Just waiting for his first carry,” friend Duffy Gallagher said.
It’s not Conner’s first time playing college football but it’s his first time back since suffering from a knee injury during the first game of last season and battling Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. He was diagnosed around Thanksgiving.
“It’s like the first day of the rest of his life. I’m so excited and blessed and thankful he’s healthy. He could be sitting on the bench right now,” James Conner’s mother Kelly Patterson said.
Conner’s doctor said it wasn’t an easy road, but he battled through his chemotherapy treatments.
“He continued to work out through treatments, went through drills, spring came and despite being on treatment which was really remarkable,” Chairman of UPMC Cancer Center Dr. Stan Marks said.
In May, Conner announced that he was cancer free. On September 3, his goals came true. He set foot back in Heinz Field and to make the day even sweeter, he scored the team’s first touchdown of the season.
“It’s a huge inspiration. This shows you go through stuff and any struggles in life and you can overcome anything. There was never a doubt in my mind he was gonna get back on the field,” James Conner’s brother Michael Conner said.
“I just told him good luck and he was telling me how great he’s gonna do,” friend Jack Gallagher said.
“It’s a work ethic. It’s a mindset. He came here and said fear is a choice. I choose not to fear cancer. That’s all it was,” friend Colby Krahe said.
Tackling that fear, was what James conner did on Saturday.
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