James Conner pays it forward – Something good happened in Erie, 6/19/2020

Without further ado, your Idiotville feel-good story of the week:


If there’s one thing we need right about now, it’s football. Well, we don’t have football. So how about the next best thing! Erie native and Pittsburgh Steelers running back, James Conner, has written a book drawing on the inspirational tale of his life.

The book, “Fear is a Choice,” describes a kid who kept his head high in the face of a whole range of hardship and disappointment along the way, including what seemed like a career-ending diagnosis of Hodgkin lymphoma in 2015 after having being named the ACC Player of the Year only the year before as a running back for the University of Pittsburgh.

“Cancer” is a scary word for anyone to hear, and especially so for a college kid with so much of his life wrapped up in football. Try to picture it. Your whole life revolves around football. All your friends are on the team. You work out every day. It’s what you talk about, what’s on your mind, where you want your future to lead.

Then – cancer. James Conner left the football team. The weight room was out, and the doctor’s office was in. Cancer treatments began. He had to have been depressed, but he didn’t show it. In fact, something miraculous happened.

James Conner, not letting a little cancer get in the way of his work out. | Photo via Chaz Palla, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

As it turned out, Conner didn’t leave the weight room for long. Back in 2016 (though it may seem like decades ago), Conner was seen working out with a surgical mask with his team, just striving to be back in his comfort zone as one of the guys.

Fast forward to that fall and James Conner was already back on the field, running right through my Nittany Lions for an improbable victory on his way to a standout senior season. In early 2017, he was selected in the NFL Draft and headed to…Pittsburgh. He became one of the few NFL players whom didn’t even need to pack his things and move.

After all of that, when James Conner says “Fear is a Choice,” I am listening. It appears I’m not alone. Conner’s book is already the No. 1 selling football book on Amazon.com and the No. 20 book in the sports and outdoors category. Did I mention James Conner is 25 years old?

No matter what James achieves, I will remember him for his time in Erie. Of course he was a dominant back for the McDowell Trojans. No one could tackle the guy. Also, that was a secondary story to the character of someone who was able to stay humble and hungry despite all of the accolades. Conner’s book is available online here.

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