PITTSBURGH, Dec. 4 (UPI) — One year has made a world of difference in the life of University of Pittsburgh star running back James Conner.
A year ago, he was named 2014 Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Year. Friday, he revealed that he has been diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma — a form of blood cancer.
Conner delivered the shocking news in a statement released by the school.
“When I heard those words — ‘You have cancer’ — I admit I was scared,” he said. “But after thinking about it for a bit, I realized that fear is a choice.”
Conner said he received his diagnosis on Thanksgiving Day. Although devastated to hear such news, the 20-year-old junior said he recognized he had a choice to make.
“I choose to not fear cancer. I choose to fight it and I will win,” he said.
Last year around this time, the All-American tailback was celebrating his selection as the conference’s top player. Things were going well for him again this season until he suffered a season-ending knee injury during the first month of the season.
Then came the news on Thanksgiving.
“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?” Conner noted. “Now one year later, instead of asking, `Why me?’ I am saying, `Why not me?’ I can beat cancer.”
Doctors say Conner has reason to be optimistic, thanks to a survival rate of at least 85 percent for Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
“I will play football again,” Conner said. “I have the best coaches and teammates in the country. I thank God I chose Pitt because now I also have the best doctors in the country and together we will win.”
“Know this: James Conner will not face this challenge alone. We are all going to be right beside him every step of the way,” Pittsburgh head football coach Pat Narduzzi said. “The day that he is declared cancer free, we will all celebrate like we do after one of his patented touchdown runs.”
During his two and a half year career at Pitt, Conner has run for more than 2,600 yards and scored 36 touchdowns.