Sponsored
×
James Conner Wins 2016 Capital One Orange Bowl-FWAA Courage Award - The Pitt News

The Pitt News

James Conner Wins 2016 Capital One Orange Bowl-FWAA Courage Award

Pitt%27s+James+Conner+%2824%29+is+the+winner+of+the+2016+Capital+One+Orange+Bowl-FWAA+Courage+Award.+%7C+Courtesy+Pitt+Athletics
Pitt's James Conner (24) is the winner of the 2016 Capital One Orange Bowl-FWAA Courage Award. | Courtesy Pitt Athletics

Pitt's James Conner (24) is the winner of the 2016 Capital One Orange Bowl-FWAA Courage Award. | Courtesy Pitt Athletics

Pete Madia/Pitt Athletics

Pete Madia/Pitt Athletics

Pitt's James Conner (24) is the winner of the 2016 Capital One Orange Bowl-FWAA Courage Award. | Courtesy Pitt Athletics

By Steve Rotstein | Sports Editor

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.


Email This Story






Pitt running back James Conner continued to stockpile his trophy case Friday afternoon, winning the 2016 Capital One Orange Bowl-FWAA Courage Award.

The award recognizes those who display courage on or off the field, including overcoming a physical injury or handicap, preventing a disaster or living through hardship. Conner has already won the 2016 Disney Sports Spirit Award as college football’s most inspirational figure as well as the Brian Piccolo Award as the most courageous player in the ACC.

“During the season it’s just one day at a time, but now that the regular season’s over, I can look back. And it’s been a fun journey,” Conner said in a press release. “Looking back now, it’s pretty remarkable.”

After tearing his MCL in the season opener in 2015 vs. Youngstown State, Conner dedicated himself to rehabbing his knee with intentions set on returning before the end of the season. Then, after experience strange symptoms while working out such as swelling in his face, he went to a doctor to get checked out.

On Thanksgiving Day 2015, doctors diagnosed Conner with Hodgkin lymphoma.

“When I heard those words — ‘You have cancer’ — I admit I was scared,” Conner said at a press conference Dec. 4. “But after thinking about it for a bit, I realized that fear is a choice. I choose not to fear cancer. I choose to fight it and I will win.”

Conner endured 12 grueling biweekly chemotherapy treatments, continuing to train with the team during offseason drills with a port in his chest and a surgical mask covering his face to prevent infections. The whole time, Conner stated his goal of not only beating cancer, but returning to the field for the team’s season opener vs. Villanova at Heinz Field Sept. 3.

That’s exactly what Conner did.

He completed his final round of chemotherapy May 9, then received a call from his doctor, Stanley Marks, on May 24, telling him he’s officially cancer free. Conner then returned for the start of training camp and started the season opener, running for 53 yards and a pair of touchdowns in Pitt’s 28-7 win.

But after watching himself on film, he told ESPN he was “embarrassed” by his performance.

Conner responded in Week 2 with a 117-yard, two-touchdown effort in the Panthers’ 42-39 win over the Penn State Nittany Lions. The 6-foot-2, 235-pound running back’s emphatic performance made him the first weekly nominee for the Capital One Orange Bowl-FWAA Courage Award.

He then rumbled for 1,359 yards from scrimmage on the year along with 20 total touchdowns without missing a game, earning him the award at year’s end.

“For as many people as James has inspired through his play on the field, that number pales in comparison to the countless others who were touched by his courage and strength in defeating cancer,” Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi said in the release. “James’ example has encouraged so many people to keep fighting through their own personal challenges. For as decorated a football player as he is, the hope and inspiration he has given others will be his greatest legacy.”

Conner will receive his latest trophy in an on-field presentation at the 2016 Capital One Orange Bowl Game between No. 6 Michigan and No. 11 Florida State in Miami, Florida, Dec. 30. He is said to be included in festivities during Capital One Orange Bowl Week, though he and the Panthers will be playing Northwestern in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl in Bronx, New York, Dec. 28.

The redshirt junior running back announced Dec. 10 the Pinstripe Bowl would be his final appearance as a Pitt Panther, declaring for the 2017 NFL Draft.

Leave a comment.

The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper
James Conner Wins 2016 Capital One Orange Bowl-FWAA Courage Award