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James Conner to forgo senior season, declare for 2017 NFL Draft - The Pitt News

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James Conner to forgo senior season, declare for 2017 NFL Draft

Pitt+RB+James+Conner+%2824%29+announced+Saturday+that+he+will+forgot+his+senior+season+and+declare+for+the+2017+NFL+Draft.+Jeff+Ahearn+%7C+Senior+Staff+Photographer
Pitt RB James Conner (24) announced Saturday that he will forgot his senior season and declare for the 2017 NFL Draft. Jeff Ahearn | Senior Staff Photographer

Pitt RB James Conner (24) announced Saturday that he will forgot his senior season and declare for the 2017 NFL Draft. Jeff Ahearn | Senior Staff Photographer

Pitt RB James Conner (24) announced Saturday that he will forgot his senior season and declare for the 2017 NFL Draft. Jeff Ahearn | Senior Staff Photographer

By Steve Rotstein | Sports Editor

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Pitt running back James Conner announced Saturday afternoon that the 2016 New Era Pinstripe Bowl will be his final game in a Panthers uniform, as he will be declaring for the 2017 NFL Draft.

Conner, a redshirt junior, could have returned to Pitt for one more season. But the star tailback decided it was time to turn pro instead, announcing his intentions via Twitter.

“I have given it everything I got and will do it one more time in New York City for my brothers at Pitt. When they talk about someone who made a positive impact on the program, I hope that they mention my name. Thank you to my family, my friends, and everyone who made this possible. I will be declaring for the 2017 NFL Draft,” Conner wrote.

Conner has certainly left his mark on a program with a storied history for running backs. He won the 2014 ACC Player of the Year Award as a sophomore, then returned from a torn MCL and Hodgkin lymphoma to earn first-team All-ACC honors for the second time in 2016.

The Erie, Pennsylvania, native enters his final game with 3,701 career rushing yards and an ACC-record 52 rushing touchdowns and 56 total touchdowns. The rushing yards and touchdowns are second-most all-time in Panthers history, behind only NFL Hall of Famer and 1976 Heisman Trophy winner Tony Dorsett.

Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi issued a statement via Twitter in support of Conner’s decision.

“I don’t know if mere words can express how I feel about James Conner. His strength, his courage and his kindness have impacted all of us beyond measure. I’m forever grateful for the opportunity to be part of his life these past two years,” Narduzzi wrote in part.

Conner recently accepted the Disney Sports Spirit Award as college football’s most inspirational figure at the Home Depot College Football Awards Show Thursday, Dec. 8. He finished his final regular season with 1,359 yards from scrimmage and 20 total touchdowns in 12 games.

The Panthers (8-4) will look to finish the season strong and send Conner out with a win against the Northwestern Wildcats (6-6) in the Pinstripe Bowl Wednesday, Dec. 28, in Bronx, New York. Kickoff at Yankee Stadium is at 2 p.m.

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James Conner to forgo senior season, declare for 2017 NFL Draft