College football is back in action and for the Pittsburgh Panthers that means home games at the friendly confines of Heinz Field. Perhaps more importantly, the kickoff of the 2016 season marks the return of Pittsburgh running back James Conner.
The former ACC Player of the Year (2014) suited up on Saturday and helped propel his team to a 28-7 victory over the Villanova Wildcats. Conner's contributions on Saturday may not have been the most eye-popping stat line (17 carries, 53 yards, one touchdown; three receptions, 16 yards, one touchdown), but the return gave his team a jolt of energy.
Conner missed the majority of his junior season with the Panthers thanks to an MCL tear that he suffered in the team’s season opener, but things got worse when he announced in December 2015 that he had been diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma.However, he remained positive, and nearly five months after his initial diagnosis Conner tweeted that he was “clean of cancer.”
As a freshman in 2013, Conner led the team in rushing yards and rushing touchdowns. A year later he was named a first-team All-American and ACC Player of the Year en route to totaling 1,765 rushing yards.
Conner opened the scoring against Villanova with a three-yard scamper to the end zone with about seven minutes left in the first half and added a nine-yard reception for a touchdown to make the score 14-0 before halftime.
Admittedly, his contributions after halftime were a bit more pedestrian, but at the end of the day his team got a win and Conner has a clean bill of health.