“Mindset was everything,” Conner said in April (via the Associated Press). “The first treatment was scary, not knowing what to expect, and it beat me up a little bit, but we’ve got a season coming up, so I don’t have time. I know my teammates need me.”
At the time of the diagnosis, Pitt Coach Pat Narduzzi said, “Cancer started the fight and James is going to finish it.” On Monday, Narduzzi said in a statement: “Over the past six months, James Conner fought cancer the same way he plays football: relentlessly and without surrender.
“He has inspired and touched so many people in how he has handled this challenge,” the coach continued. “James is an incredibly special person, and I’m not even thinking about his football ability when I say that. Everyone at Pitt feels blessed to know him and we are tremendously thankful for the wonderful news he received today.”
The cancer diagnosis came after Conner had already suffered a season-ending knee injury in the Panthers’ first game last year, in September. This year, he has thrown out the first pitch at the Pirates’ Opening Day game, and he appeared on “Ellen,” where he was given a surprise meeting with Chiefs safety Eric Berry, who has beaten back the same illness.
As a freshman in 2013, Conner was named MVP of the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl after rushing for 229 yards and a touchdown against Bowling Green. In his sophomore season, he gained 1,765 yards on 298 carries, setting school and ACC records with 26 rushing touchdowns.