James Conner Returns to Practice for 1st Time Since Lymphoma Diagnosis

Tim DanielsFeatured ColumnistFebruary 13, 2016

FILE - This Oct. 25, 2014, file photo shows Pittsburgh running back James Conner (24) during an NCAA college football game against Georgia Tech,  in Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh junior running back James Conner has been diagnosed with cancer and will begin treatment immediately. The 2014 ACC Player of the Year said Friday, Dec. 4, 2015, he received the diagnosis of stage 2 Hodgkin lymphoma on Thanksgiving and has tumors in his neck and chest. He will begin chemotherapy next week. Treatment will last about six months. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic, File)
Keith Srakocic/Associated Press

Pittsburgh Panthers running back James Conner has returned to the practice field as he continues his recovery from a knee injury and following his diagnosis of Hodgkin lymphoma.

Panthers head coach Pat Narduzzi posted a video Saturday showing Conner going through a training session with teammates:

Conner announced his diagnosis in December. Pitt's official athletic site passed along comments at the time from the 2014 ACC Player of the Year, and he vowed not only to win the fight against cancer but also to play football again:

I know there are so many people in the world who were told by their doctors this week that they also have cancer. I want them to know that together we can—and will—beat cancer.

I will play football again. I will be at Heinz Field again. I have the best coaches and teammates in the country. I thank God I chose Pitt because now I also have the best doctors in the country and together we will win. I know this city has my back.

Conner is doing everything in his power to make those words come true. While a workout in February is still a long way from game day in the fall, every step represents progress and can also provide inspiration for others in a similar situation.

Conner was a force for Pittsburgh throughout the 2014 season. The Pennsylvania native rushed for 1,765 yards and 26 touchdowns to lead the Panthers offense. He also established himself as one of the nation's top running backs.

At 6'2", 240 pounds, Conner's combination of size and power made him a nightmare for opposing defenders. He hopes to one day put those traits on display again.

Exactly what the future holds is still a mystery, though, as he's not only dealing with the cancer diagnosis but also trying to get his knee back to full strength. So, there are still plenty of hurdles to clear before he returns to the field.

But just seeing No. 24 out there doing drills is surely enough to put smiles on faces throughout the college football community.