James Conner appears to be headed to the NFL after the cancer survivor declared for the 2017 NFL draft on Saturday.
The 21-year-old posted the news on Twitter, titled “Forever Grateful”:
Forever Grateful. pic.twitter.com/B8wXA9ABZz
— James Conner (@JamesConner_) December 10, 2016
Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi appeared prepared and supportive of Conner’s decision in a statement also posted to Twitter. He said he wasn’t sure “if words can adequately express” how he feels about the redshirt junior.
“James and I have had many conversations about his dreams and aspirations, both in football and life. We know he will continue to make us all proud as he takes this next step to the NFL,” wrote Narduzzi.
— Pitt Football (@Pitt_FB) December 10, 2016
Conner was diagnosed with Stage 2A Hodgkin lymphoma on Dec. 4. He missed most of the 2015 season after injuring his knee in the opening game. During rehab he noticed he was tiring more easily, and eventually found out he had a serious issue.
Conner has 1,060 yards with 16 touchdowns in 2016. During his career with the Panthers he’s rushed for 3,701 yards on 660 carries for 52 touchdowns.
During his treatments, Conner continued to work out with the Panthers and became an inspirational figure throughout the sports world. Conner was awarded the Disney Spirit Award on Thursday.
Pitt takes on Northwestern in the Pinstripe Bowl on December 28. Per Pitt, the game, played at iconic Yankee Stadium, will kick off at 2 p.m., and be nationally televised by ESPN. Conner will have the chance to add to his own ACC all-time career records for combined touchdowns (56) and rushing scores (52).
Pitt enters the postseason with an 8-4 record and boasting Top 25 rankings in the Associated Press poll (No. 22) and College Football Playoff ratings (No. 23).