Dak Prescott. Ezekiel Elliot. Marshawn Lynch. Tom Brady. And James Conner? The 105th pick out of the University of Pittsburgh has been making waves not only in the great City of Pittsburgh but across the United States.
In May, after the draft, Conner ranked No. 11 in jersey sales according to NFLShop. Now with the season looming, he ballooned to No. 2 according to Dick Sporting Goods data.
So where did the arcane James Conner come from?
The hometown hero had towering highs and rock bottom lows throughout his college days. He played for the University of Pittsburgh for four years until he discovered a life altering discovery. He was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma during his junior season. Most would assume a professional career in football would be too far out of reach. But not Conner.
Inspirational workout videos soon appeared all over the internet. A masked man would be practicing with the college football team. The mask was medical and the man was Conner. In between treatments, the Pennsylvania native never gave up on his gridiron dreams.
Just as ceremonial as Eric Berry’s return to football; Conner totaled 20 touchdowns for his last collegiate campaign.
How his rookie season will unfold is unknown. He is backing up the league’s best runner in Le’Veon Bell, a position that won’t give him a lot of looks. But in the unique situation where Bell has yet to sign long term, Steelers’ fans may be looking at the inspiring back up as the future.
But backing up Bell isn’t the worst gig in the league. Le’Veon can provide as a great leader on the field and has yet to prove he can play a full 16-game slate. Whether due to suspensions or injuries, Bell has only played a full regular season once. A couple of games is all that Conner will need to showcase his talent.
The eighth running back taken off the board, his upside is exponential and could easily find himself as one of the best rookies of the year. Young blood is taking over the league in all positions, and Conner looks to be the newest member on that list. Here’s to James Conner achieving his dreams after his serious health scare!
Start the conversation with us on Twitter, @SportsAlDente.