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Three Panthers make Rotary Lombardi Award watch list

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Pitt RB James Conner was one of three Panthers named to the Lombardi Award watch list. Stephen Caruso | Contributing Editor

Pitt RB James Conner was one of three Panthers named to the Lombardi Award watch list. Stephen Caruso | Contributing Editor

Pitt RB James Conner was one of three Panthers named to the Lombardi Award watch list. Stephen Caruso | Contributing Editor

By Steve Rotstein / Sports Editor

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Junior running back James Conner and senior offensive linemen Adam Bisnowaty and Dorian Johnson were named to the Rotary Lombardi Award watch list late last week.

The award is named after former Green Bay Packers head coach Vince Lombardi and awarded to players who show “outstanding” performance and leadership. The trio’s mention on the list gives the Panthers a total of 18 preseason awards watch list selections.

Conner and sophomore safety Jordan Whitehead now lead the team with four awards watch list selections apiece. Bisnowaty has appeared on three watch lists, while Johnson has appeared on two.

Also receiving preseason award recognition were senior defensive end Ejuan Price, junior offensive lineman Alex Officer, junior punter Ryan Winslow, senior linebacker Mike Caprara and senior quarterback Nathan Peterman.

Originally only open to interior linemen before expanding to include linebackers and tight ends, the Lombardi Award has expanded its eligibility in 2016 to include all eligible position players that are recognized for both their play and their leadership on the field.

This is the fourth watch list selection of 2016 for Conner, who was previously named a preseason candidate for the Maxwell Award, Wuerffel Trophy and Doak Walker Award.

Conner –– the 2014 ACC Player of the Year –– is on track to take the field in the season opener against Villanova Sept. 3, less than a year after tearing his MCL and completing a successful recovery from stage two Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

After experiencing strange symptoms while training to rehab his knee, Conner was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s on Thanksgiving Day 2015. Less than six months later, on May 23, he announced he was in remission.

A senior offensive tackle from Fox Chapel, Pennsylvania, Bisnowaty garnered his third award watch list selection of 2016 after previously being tabbed for the Outland Trophy and Wuerffel Trophy watch lists. A first-team All-ACC selection in 2015, Bisnowaty was also named one of three co-captains for the Panthers this year, along with Conner and defensive end Ejuan Price.

Johnson, a senior offensive guard from Belle Vernon, Pennsylvania, made his second award watch list after being selected to the Outland Trophy watch list along with Bisnowaty. Johnson, who was voted second-team All-ACC last season, has made 27 consecutive starts for Pitt.

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Three Panthers make Rotary Lombardi Award watch list