James Conner is no stranger to overcoming the odds. Conner recently joined hip-hop artist and former Duke University pitcher Mike Seander (Mike Stud) for an hour-long chat, discussing everything from football to general life lessons to Conner's battle with cancer and more.
Things started heating up about 12 minutes into the discussion, as Conner began talking about his college football career at Pitt. After nabbing ACC Player of the Year honors in 2014, Conner looked primed for a breakout 2015 junior campaign. That never happened, however, as Conner tore his MCL in the team's Week 1 win against Youngstown State.
"As a running back, I'm like, 'This is the worst thing in the world,'" Conner told Stud. "A running back [with an MCL] injury? It ain't cool."
Things quickly escalated for Conner. While rehabbing from his knee injury, Conner noticed additional, unrelated complications that sent him back to the doctors for additional testing.
"I'm rehabbing for that, trying to make a comeback before the season ends," Conner said. "And then I'm rehabbing and [stuff and I get] night sweats, bro. I'm getting like 15 minutes of sleep at night, going through it. Sleep, who [doesn't] love sleep? That's the worst [stuff] in the world ... And so I get some tests done, and I got tumors surrounding my heart ... I got tumors growing all around it, and it's pressing."
The issue was severe — so severe, in fact, that Conner says doctors gave him a grim prognosis on the spot.
"The doctor told me I had a week left," Conner said. "He said, 'You got about a week. If you [don't] get this treated, you [have] about a week at the rate it's growing.'"
From there, Conner's recovery — both physically and mentally — is well documented, and it's something Stud discusses with him throughout the podcast. After intense rehabbing and recovery, Conner was selected by the Steelers in the third round of the 2017 NFL Draft. He seized the starting role in Le'Veon Bell's absence in 2018 and went on to earn his first Pro Bowl selection by rushing for 973 yards with 12 touchdowns in 12 starts.