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James Conner’s Inspiring Return to Pittsburgh in 2022


James Conner’s Inspiring Return to Pittsburgh in 2022

The Pittsburgh Steelers drafted James Conner in the third round of the 2017 NFL Draft (105th pick overall). Conner was a star for the Pitt Panthers and Steeler Nation, as well as most of the country, is aware of his battle with cancer. He missed his junior season battling Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Conner returned to Pittsburgh Friday night to honor his former nurse Carrie Richards at an emotional ceremony at Heinz Field. Bob Pompeani filed this story regarding the dinner and ceremony for KDKA Channel 2 in Pittsburgh and caught up with Conner just before the festivities kicked off:

“100 percent healthy and just an awesome night here at Dr. Stanley Marks Foundation dinner. We are giving out the James Conner Courage Award and we are giving it to one of my former nurses. So everything is just special about tonight. It’s good to see everybody. It’s good to be back in Pittsburgh and just looking forward to a wonderful night. It’s a big honor for me.”

Conner’s battle is always retold whenever he appears in an NFL game. It is an important story and both he, Pitt and the Steelers always get credit for his fight and the programs that supported him. In 2016, Conner was the recipient of what is now known as the James Conner Courage Award. He did not do it alone and last night, the former Steelers star returned to Pittsburgh to thank one of the people who played a key role in his recovery at the 7th annual Dr. Stanley Mark Blood-Cancer Research Foundation Dinner who ironically was receiving the award after overcoming a similar diagnosis just a few years later. Richards was one of Conner’s nurses during his fight with cancer. She is a fantastic profile in courage, and she used part of her speech to thank Conner for returning to honor her:

“I did not know that you were going to be here. But what you accomplished is absolutely incredible without having cancer, [sobs] and after going through it, I just want you to know that I know how amazing it is that you are still able to accomplish your dreams and that is so inspiring for the rest of us.”

It says a lot about how important Richards must have been to Conner and the class of the man himself that he took time to fly across the country and be present to honor her. The award is named after him, but it was obvious by her reaction that he was not expected at the dinner. Conner did a good job making sure the focus was on the recipient, not his return.

Conner’s sophomore season was huge, rushing for 1,765 yards and it appeared he was on the fast track to NFL stardom. He overcame his battle with cancer and returned to Pitt for his senior season and rushed for 1,065 yards. It was a feel-good story that Richards had a large role in helping him realize when he was drafted by the Steelers and after sitting behind Le’veon Bell in 2017, he was given the opportunity to become the Steelers lead back in 2018.  Conner never started more than 12 games for the Steelers in his four seasons with the team, but when healthy, he was productive, if not spectacular for the Steelers. He has since moved on to the Arizona Cardinals, has scored 18 touchdowns, and made his second Pro Bowl after the 2021 season.


James Conner

Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin talks with running back James Conner during rookie minicamp Friday, May 12, 2017 at UPMC Rooney Sports Complex on the South Side. (Matt Freed/Post-Gazette)

Mike Tomlin Upset Over James Conner’s Departure

Conner and Richards have both battled Hodgkin’s lymphoma and beat the disease. He returned to Pitt, has had success in the NFL, and will continue to live his dream in 2022 of playing professional football. I hope Richards finds similar success in returning to her chosen profession or whatever future endeavors to which she lends her efforts. We are not all professional athletes, but thanks to Richards’s inspiration in battling cancer, she proved we do not have to be.

If you are interested in donating to Dr. Marks Foundation, you can follow the link here.


What do you think, Steeler Nation? Are you happy to hear Conner is returning to Pittsburgh to support the community? Please comment below or on my Twitter @thebubbasq.

I have been rooting for the Steelers actively since 1975. I love the Black and Gold and support them through thick and thin. I am a Navy Veteran, living in Jacksonville, FL and never miss a chance to go to the neutral site games here in Jacksonville. I am new to the Steeler Nation website, but I love discussing Steelers Past, Present and Future.



  1. Pingback: Why The Steelers Benny Snell Experiment Should Finally Come To An End in 2022 -

  2. chimney

    July 25, 2022 at 11:30 pm

    Keep thіs going please, great job!

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