MOON TOWNSHIP (KDKA) — Former Pitt Panther and rookie Pittsburgh Steelers running back James Conner stopped by a Moon Township Giant Eagle to greet fans and sign autographs Saturday morning.
Adults and children alike, some already sporting Conner’s rookie jersey, turned out to meet the young man whose inspiring story captured national attention.
Conner fought cancer while playing for the Pitt Panthers and was declared cancer-free in May of last year. Conner was drafted by the Steelers as the 105th player in the 2017 NFL Draft.
Shane Leatherman and his son, Dylan, made the trip all the way from Cumberland, Md., arriving at the store around 7:45 a.m. for the 10 a.m. meet-and-greet session.
Leatherman described his son as a huge James Conner fan.
“Because he fought cancer and he still is able to play football and stuff,” Dylan said.
Bill Sjolinder, of Moon Twp., brought his baby daughter, Samantha, to snap photos of her with the rookie running back.
“Got her in the Stanley Cup, got her with the Lombardi trophies, got her with James Conner, so parenting done right!” Sjolinder said.
A long line formed through the store as Conner signed autographs for and took photos with admiring fans.
“I decided to come out because of James Conner’s inspirational story about surviving cancer and Conner Strong, and I actually really appreciate the guy’s effort, and it keeps me inspired and motivated in everyday, day-to-day life,” Brandon Boord, of Centre Township, said.
Conner described being drafted by the Steelers as a dream come true, saying he got “good vibes” from a meeting with the Steelers before the NFL Draft.
Steelers training camp starts next week, and Conner said he was looking forward to returning to Heinz Field, where he played with the Panthers.
“All I know is when they call number 30, I gotta be ready,” he said, “so that’s all I’m focused on, is just learning this playbook and doing my job.”
Steelers fans’ excitement for Conner is obvious, as Dick’s Sporting Goods reports that Conner’s jersey is the best-selling NFL rookie jersey this year and this year’s third most popular NFL jersey overall.
“I mean, I knew people liked me, but I’ve been hearing my jersey was all around the world, so it’s unbelievable, you know? It’s just so surreal,” Conner said. “But I’ve still got a lot to prove on the field. So, the jersey sales and everything is real nice, but you know, I’m focused on winning. It’s nice, though.”