Pinstripe Bowl Should Be James Conner’s Party

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Here are a few words and phrases you can use to describe PITT Running Back James Conner: Hardworking, Courageous, Never Give Up Attitude, The Will To Win and I could go on, but the point is made.

When Conner announced that he would declare for the 2017 NFL Draft after the bowl game on December 28, I went back and thought about where the program was when he arrived in Pittsburgh.  The PITT football program was coming out of the poorly handled Dave Wannstedt firing, the very short Michael Haywood era and the 1 year of every fan’s favorite Head Coach Todd Graham

Under Paul Chryst, Conner entered the program as a 2-star defensive end recruit prior to the 2013 season, but really would never played defensive end. In his first game against Florida State he had 9 carries for 34 yards. Not great, but it was a glimpse into what the future held for PITT.  Throughout the 2013 season he ran for over 100 yards 3 times against New Mexico, Duke and North Carolina.  He also added 2 multi-touchdown performances against New Mexico and Notre Dame.  Conner finished the 2013 season with 146 attempts, 799 yards and 8 touchdowns.

As the page turned to the 2014 season, Conner was now the feature back and he showed why with a 153 yard, 4 touchdown performance against Delaware.  He followed that game up with a 214 yard, touchdown performance in Boston College. During the 2014 season, Conner had three 200+ yard games and four 100+ yard games.  He also had two 4 touchdown games, three 3 touchdown games and three 2 touchdown games. Conner finished the 2014 season with 298 attempts, 1,765 yards and 26 touchdowns.

Every PITT fan was excited for the start of the 2015 season because everyone just wanted to see what James Conner would do on the football field next to add to what he was already doing off the field in the community.  In Week 1 against Youngstown State he had 8 carries for 77 yards and 2 touchdowns.  And that was all she wrote for the 2015 season because of a knee injury.  PITT fans were all wondering if that was the last we would see Conner because many were predicting he would declare for the draft the following year and then came the press conference in late November.

When Conner was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma, thoughts were not about James Conner the football player, they became about James Conner the person.  The draft talk went away as he said he would