James Conner is not only a warrior, he’s a champion. The Pittsburgh Panther Running Back was injured in his first game of the 2015 season and he missed the entire season. While injured, it was discovered that Conner had cancer. Not only did this tough guy beat his knee injury, he also beat cancer and he is back on the field for the Pitt Panthers this season and taking right back up where he left off.
In 2014, James Conner was one of the top backs in the country with 1,765 rushing yards and 26
Conner was 250 then, and now he’s 235.
During the game against Penn State on September 10th, which turned into possibly the best game of the entire day, we learned from Pittsburgh Head Athletic Trainer Rob Blanc more about James Conner.
Blanc had this to say about Conner, ‘I think probably one of the things that I learned the most from this experience, going through this experience with James, was how important attitude is in the healing process. He never once felt sorry for himself, he never wondered once why this was happenin to him, he just said this is what it is and I have to deal with it and I am going to push through it.”
Head coach Pat Narduzzi said that the day after the diagnosis that James Conner sat in his office and said ‘coach, I am going to beat this, and they are going to tell my story.’
I am now telling his story.
The 2014 Pittsburgh Panthers were coached by former Wisconsin Offensive Coordinator Paul Chryst. He coached them to a 6-6 regular season and then they lost to Houston in their bowl game by 1 point.
Nebraska started a chain of events by firing their head coach Bo Pelini and hiring Oregon State’s Mike Riley as their next coach.
Oregon State hired Wisconsin’s Gary Andersen leaving the Badger’s to lure their old Coordinator back where he probably belonged. With Pittsburgh suddenly in need of a new coach, they turned to Michigan State and hired their Defensive Coordinator, Pat Narduzzi.
After last season, and from what we have seen so far after 2 games this season, Pittsburgh may have gotten the best deal out of all of the coach trading.
Between Chryst and Narduzzi, the Panthers have assembled a pretty outstanding Offensive Line. Left Tackle Adam Bisnowaty, Left Guard Dorian Johnson, Center Alex Officer, Right Guard Alex Bookser, and Right Tackle Brian O’Neill are abouta s good of an Offensive Line as there is in the country. Throw in a good blocking Tight End with Scott Orndoff and then a good passing Quarterback to take some pressure off of the running game in Nate Peterman and there’s a good
situation in Pittsburgh for a good Running Back.
James Conner is a good Running Back.
Pittsburgh opened with Villanova and they won fairly easily, 28-7 But, the Panthers did not necessarily play all that well. Conner only had 53 yards rushing on 17 carries, but he bounced back against the Panther’s big rival, Penn State.
In an extremely exciting game where the Panther’s had to claw and fight to hang on for a 42-39 win over the Nittany Lions. Conner ran for 117 yards on 22 carries.
It’s not a very James Conner like start for James Conner, but he still has 170 rushing yards and 2 Touchdowns.
Just like when he was a 6-2, 250 sophomore, the now 235 pound junior is still not the fastest back around. But, Conner is a power back deluxe.
What kind of NFL future might James Conner have? It’s hard to say. NFL teams tend to prefer a speedier Running Back than what we have seen from Conner. He can run over people in college, but the Pros are a different story.
Regardless, James Conner is a fighter. He’s a true gladiator, a guy that takes what life gives him and doesn’t whine or complain. Not only that, but he fights back and dominates when situations seem hopeless to most.
A fan of the game like me can’t help but pull for a guy like James Conner. He’s been through more
before his senior year of college than most have to deal with and he never gave up.
Pittsburgh has a good team this season, but they have a tough schedule coming up. They are 2-0 and travel this week to Stillwater, Oklahoma to face a very angry Oklahoma State team that lost on the last play of the game last week.
Then, there’s tough North Carolina next, and then Marshall. Other tough games remaining include Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, Miami, Clemson and Duke.
If their are others on the Pittsburgh Panther roster with the heart of warrior James Conner, this schedule should be a piece of cake.