Pitt announced Friday that star running back James Conner has Hodgkin's lymphoma.
Conner suffered a season-ending knee injury in the first game of the 2015 season. He had 1,765 rushing yards and 26 touchdowns in 2014. He was the seventh-leading rusher in the country.
"When I heard those words – `You have cancer' – I admit I was scared," Conner said in a team release. "But after thinking about it for a bit, I realized that fear is a choice. I choose to not fear cancer. I choose to fight it and I will win.
"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? Now one year later, instead of asking, `Why me?' I am saying, `Why not me?' I can beat cancer.
"I know there are so many people in the world who were told by their doctors this week that they also have cancer. I want them to know that together we can – and will – beat cancer.
"I will play football again. I will be at Heinz Field again. 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. I know this city has my back."
Hodgkin's lymphoma is a cancer of the body's lymph nodes and is a treatable form of cancer. If you're unfamiliar with it, here's a short summary from the Mayo Clinic:
Hodgkin's lymphoma — formerly known as Hodgkin's disease — is a cancer of the lymphatic system, which is part of your immune system.
In Hodgkin's lymphoma, cells in the lymphatic system grow abnormally and may spread beyond the lymphatic system. As Hodgkin's lymphoma progresses, it compromises your body's ability to fight infection.
Conner had eight carries for 77 yards and two scores vs. Youngstown State before he was out for the season thanks to a torn MCL in his right knee. He said after the YSU game that he was fine, but test results found a severe enough tear to sideline him for the remaining 11 games.
In his statement following the knee injury, Conner had the same positive attitude and called the MCL tear a "temporary setback."
The junior running back was a preseason All-ACC selection and an All-American candidate. He also volunteers with multiple organizations and when he goes on hospital visits he gives out his game gloves to kids.
"It has been almost a year since I first met James and I've learned many things about him during that time," Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi said. "Yes, he is a talented football player, but more importantly he is an exceptional person. Being an athlete is just a small fraction of who he is. James cares deeply about others. He is invested in his community and helping people in need.
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