Every now and then you come across someone remarkable. Someone that despite being dealt blow after blow they get back up and get better. You have to possess a certain drive in you to keep going and not give up, never taking no for an answer. If you don’t know him already, meet James Conner.
Not that it matters, because the story alone would win best picture at the Oscars, but Conner was an outstanding running back before his misfortunes occurred. Look at this dude’s sophomore season in 2014…
How’s 26 touchdowns sound? 1765 yards rushing, including three games with over 200. The guy was must watch every week back in 2014. Linebackers that were trying to tackle him in the open field would quickly regret trying to do so. Gearing up for the 2015 season Conner was ready to set the world on fire again, but fate had other ideas. A torn MCL ended his season after just one half of play in the first game, but that was just the beginning. The following December we learned Conner was battling Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. The news didn’t feel real. We look at these types of athletes and think they’re immortal. They’re the toughest guys on the planet playing this game, and we lose our sense of reality for a moment. These guys can’t get sick, can they? Cancer? No shot. Well cancer is a motherfucker, and it touches everyone in some way. But how did Conner react to the news?
“I choose not to fear cancer…I will play football again.”
Even for him, people thought he was a little nuts for thinking that. Cancer takes so much of a beating on your body. It attacks your weaknesses and challenges you in ways you didn’t think were possible. My dad, the toughest guy I’ve ever met, lost his battle to cancer four years ago. As great as modern science is today, there’s no guarantees. But Conner would not be defeated. He beat cancer. No, he laughed in cancer’s face thinking it would take him down. He trained harder than anyone to get back into shape and you bet your ass he suited up for week one in 2016.
Just getting back on the field was a miracle in itself, but no one had legit expectations for #24. Conner wasn’t back to just stand on the sideline and take it easy. No, he took all the anger built up through his hardships and punished every opposing defense with it. Were you curious as to how Clemson fell to Pittsburgh a few weeks back?
With his two touchdowns on Saturday against Duke, Conner broke the career ACC touchdown record held by Virginia’s Wali Lundy (52). Keep in mind he’s done it in basically three full seasons. Remarkable.
I’m not sure if he will declare for the NFL Draft this year as he still has one more year of eligibility remaining. If he does so, any team that takes him will be getting an absolute steal. Being a Packers fan, and our running back situation being an absolute dumpster fire, I would be ecstatic if Ted Thompson called James Conner’s name at some point. He’s a 6’2″ 240 pound freak, who runs very well, and has improved his pass catching ability greatly this season. This year he’s compiled 844 yards and 12 touchdowns with 18 catches for 254 yards and three more scores. He ran over a top ranked Clemson defense like they were nothing. If NFL GMs want to see the kind of player Conner is, just watch that game film. He’s one of the best stories, if not the best, in sports right now and not enough people are talking about him.