With all of the talk about the great performances from freshman quarterbacks and the slew of upsets and close calls from the exciting opening college football action, perhaps the best NCAA football story from this weekend slipped under the radar.
University of Pittsburgh running back James Conner, the 2014 ACC Player of the Year, announced in December that he had been diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma. Conner was a beast as a sophomore in 2014 rushing for 1,765 yards and 26 touchdowns.
He fell off the national radar after tearing the MCL in his right knee during lst season’s opener.
The redshirt junior told anyone that would listen that his fight against cancer was one that he fully expected to win. But going into chemotherapy, many doubted him when he proclaimed that he’d be ready to go for the Panther’s season opener.
But true to his word, Conner not only returned to the field on Saturday, he scored two first-half touchdowns in Pitt’s 28-7 home win over Villanova.
He finished with 17 carries for 53 yards and added 3 catches for 16 yards.
“I know it’s a comeback game, but it’s felt like a regular-season football camp, really,” Conner said after the game. “My battle was already won. Beating cancer, everything else was a reward.”
Conner’s 3-yard touchdown run with a little more than seven minutes left until halftime gave Pitt a 7-0 lead.
He snagged his first career receiving touchdown on a 9-yard grab that sent the Panthers into the locker room with a 14-0 lead at intermission.