An Inspiring College Athlete Battles Cancer

James Conner is a college football player who is fighting for much more than just glory on the field.

Our next guest is an All-American running
back from the University of Pittsburgh,
who had plans to enter the NFL this year,
but last November everything changed.
Take a look.
>> Here comes the hammer,
big James Conner.
>> James Conner is dominating this game.
>> Congratulations to James Conner,
the ACC player of the year.
>> Touchdown, James Conner.
>> James Carter would not be denied.
>> Man’s on a mission,
he’s a flat-out monster.
>> Football is my life, it truly is.
I just love the game,
just run out the tunnel,
there’s really no other
feeling that can match that.
The first two years was a lot of success
and it got me ACC Player of the Year,
which was huge for me.
Entering my junior year, I was thinking,
the Loggers won the ACC Championship.
I wanted to win the Heisman.
Enter this NFL draft and
achieve my lifelong goal.
But things took a different turn.
It started off with like a cough.
I’m lifting weights and my head feels
like it’s getting pumped with air.
And I’m like, man, something isn’t right.
>> And so I’m taking to the doctors
a couple of days later.
Well he is like it looks like lymphoma.
So that’s how I found out and
then one of the hardest part was telling
my brothers and telling my teammates.
>> He was not calm, it was emotional.
You can see the chills that I’m getting.
The whole team,
just sat in there almost in shock.
>> I played Eric Berry’s video for
the team first cuz he did a good job
describing what he went through.
>> He watched the video of Eric Berry,
safety for the Kansas City Chiefs, and
he had the same diagnosis that James had.
He came back, made it to the Pro Bowl,
a very inspiring story.
The doctor told me,
he said it’s about 85 to 95% curable.
I’m like that’s more than enough for me.
I’d be good if you said 2%,
I was gonna make it.
I’m like okay, it’s on, let’s go.
[MUSIC]
Let’s go!
>> Nice!
>> Chemo does what it does.
I was a little sick for
a couple days after,
but we pick it back up in the next
week and try to stay active.
>> If you think you’re having a bad day,
and
then you see him at practice with
one of those masks on, it’s amazing.
>> We had chemo yesterday, and
he’s out there running around today.
When you think you have a problem,
you’ll look over to James and
look at the problem he has.
It makes your problems
look about that big.
>> I think what really motivates me
is the days when he’s not there.
We know he’s in there getting chemo and
he’s sitting in a chair all by himself.
That’s when you start thinking I
gotta work harder for him today.
>> He has cancer, he wants to work out.
I gots to work out.
>> My dog James’s a warrior.
Pure warrior, getting it in.
>> When you see that, I mean how could
you not want to come out here and
just keep fighting when you see your
brother is fighting for his life.
>> What I want to do next is just
carry the ball again, no matter for
how many yards it is, and next season
will be something to remember forever.
I can’t wait for it to start.
The goal is still the same,
it’s just a little postponed.
So.
Everything’s going to work out for
the best I believe it.
Hopefully I can still achieve
that dream of the NFL.
[MUSIC]
>> [APPLAUSE]
>> Please welcome James Conner.
You must have been shocked
to find out you had cancer.
>> Yeah like I said, the first two
years everything was just going great,
I had no complaints and
then this just happened out of nowhere
>> And I’m like,
I do all the right things.
I tried to be a good person,
eat healthy, do all the right things.
But doctors, they scan me, and
it was like yeah, looks like lymphoma.
So I’m like it is what it is,
I got to beat this, I got to overcome it.
And great things turned out of it though,
I’m here with you, so.
>> Yeah [LAUGH].
Well, and I’m here with you.
>> [APPLAUSE]
>> So,
I mean from everyone that I’ve ever talked
to that has gone through chemo- Mm-hm.
>> It wears you down.
It makes you so tired.
How can you,
it looks like you’re full on practicing.
How are you doing that?
>> We got a game September 3rd.
So, I gotta be ready.
I owe it to my teammates and
the whole city of Pittsburgh to be ready.
>> So, we’re seeing you playing with the
mask on and practicing with the mask on.
>> Yeah.
>> What can’t you do?
What is limiting you?
>> The mask is for me cuz with my chemo,
my white blood levels get low.
So I’m more at risk to get sick.
And being in tight environments.
People sweat and all that kind of stuff.
It’s just for my safety.
But the only thing I can’t do,
I have a port implanted in my chest, and
they stick the needle in there and
then they pump the chemo through that.
And so I can’t like really do stuff and
get tackled.
Cuz I can’t get it dislodged so-
>> Good for you.
You can’t get tackled.
That’s a great thing.
>> [LAUGH]
>> Yeah, so
nah I can do everything, still work out.
I just gotta be careful.
I can’t get tackled yet cuz of this port.
>> RIght, yeah, and
how is your health now?
>> Heath is, I’m great.
I feel great.
I get chemo every two weeks.
I started in December.
Our schedule was every two weeks for
six months.
I finished 10 treatments out of 12.
So I have two more.
My last one is May 9th and
then the doctor wants to wait
four weeks to get another scan.
And so I’m just praying those results come
back good and I’ll be back on the field.
>> You look great!
You look great.
>> [APPLAUSE]
>> So we’re back with James Conner, and
I know you’ve had a lot of support from
obviously your teammates, and you friends
and your family, but Eric Berry has
been a huge support for you, right?
>> Yes, when I first was telling my team,
I played one of his videos, and
it was just a real motivational video.
He was talking about what
the chemo does and stuff.
After that video I get a text,
and it says, what’s up, James?
This is EB from the Chiefs,
do you mind if I call you?
And I’m like, yeah, you can call me.
>> Yeah.
>> [LAUGH]
>> So he called.
I had like a 30 minute conversation and
he just gave me the whole rundown,
what to expect.
Because that was before any treatments.
>> Have you met
him at all?
Or no?
>> Nah, I never met him in person.
>> You should meet him now.
Eric, come on out.
>> [APPLAUSE]
[MUSIC]
[APPLAUSE]
[MUSIC]
[INAUDIBLE]
>> Hi Eric, how are you?
>> I’m good, how you doing?
>> I’m great.
So how did you hear about this
situation with James?
>> Man, I actually didn’t
find out through the news or anything.
A scout came to our meeting room and
told me.
Pulled me out of meetings.
Just told me one of the top
running backs in the country,
he just found out that he has the same
cancer that you was diagnosed with, so,
if you could, just give him a call.
So
we just had a brief conversation about it,
and then we finished up with meetings.
>> That’s amazing, and
obviously you inspired him and
gave him the drive to go on.
What advice do you have for
anyone out there who’s watching
that may be going through this?
>> Just never limit yourself,
you know what I’m saying?
And anything that you’re going through,
you’re really battling yourself,
the same thing I told you.
>> Mm-hm.
>> It’s never about the chemo,
it’s never about the cancer,
it’s all about what you’re willing to put
in to overcome whatever the obstacle is.
And I think that’s the biggest thing
that you’re challenged with when
you come into contact with any type of
trial or tribulation is just seeing how
tough you are mentally to
actually do what you wanna do.
>> Yeah, I mean I think sometimes those
situations that happen to us in life
elevate us to a whole other level
we didn’t even know we had.
It just kicks us into another gear.
>> Definitely.
Especially when your life is on the line,
you know what I’m saying?
>> Well, thank you for being here.
>> [APPLAUSE]
>> We’re praying that that’s the news you
get in a couple of weeks.

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