James Conner visits Ellen DeGeneres Show


James Conner talks to Ellen about battling Hodgkin’s lymphoma to get back on the field. Courtesy of EllenTube

By Ashwini Sivaganesh / Staff Writer

Pitt running back James Conner made a guest appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show Thursday afternoon.

During his eight-minute segment, Conner spoke about what it’s been like to play football while receiving treatment for Hodgkin’s lymphoma. At the end of his interview, Kansas City Chiefs safety Eric Berry — who also had Hodgkin’s lymphoma — surprised Conner.   

Prior to his appearance, DeGeneres’ producers taped a video montage of Conner training, going through chemotherapy and talking about his future in Pittsburgh.

“The doctor told me, ‘It’s about 85 to 95 percent curable,’” Conner said. “Oh, that’s more than enough for me. You know I’ll be here if you said 2 percent.”

The video also included Pitt football head coach Pat Narduzzi and teammates Dennis Briggs, Matt Galambos, Adam Bisnowaty and Rachid Ibrahim. Conner’s team praised him for his motivation and work ethic. During one of the clips, Conner is wearing a blue medical mask at practice because of his lowered immune system from the chemotherapy.

“If you think you’re having a bad day, and then you see him at practice with one of those masks on, it’s amazing,” Galambos said.

DeGeneres and Conner discussed the limitations chemotherapy puts on his training, as well as his future plans for the upcoming football season.

“The only thing I can’t do is — I have a port in my chest — so I can’t really get tackled,” Connor said.

“Good for you, you can’t get tackled. That’s a great thing,” DeGeneres responded, laughing.

DeGeneres asked Conner if he followed Berry’s cancer story, seconds before she brought out the Pro Bowl safety as a surprise guest.

The players shared a hug before Berry — who was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s in 2014 — talked about the first time he heard Conner’s story.

“I didn’t find out through the news or anything. A scout came … and pulled me out of the meeting saying, ‘One of the top running backs in the country, he just found out he has the same cancer that you were diagnosed with. If you could give him a call,’” Berry said.

Conner still has two more chemotherapy treatments to go through — his last is May 9. Four weeks later, he will go through scans to check if he is cancer-free.

“We’re all praying that’s the [good] news you get,” DeGeneres said.

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