Cancer survivor Conner declares for NFL draft

Pittsburgh Panthers running back James Conner, who rushed for 1,060 yards this season after being diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, has declared for the 2017 NFL draft.

Conner, a redshirt junior who also scored 20 total touchdowns, announced his decision on his Twitter account Saturday.

He was awarded with the 2016 Disney Sports Spirit Award, which recognizes college football’s most inspirational figure, on Thursday.

Conner, the 2014 ACC Player of the Year, revealed his diagnosis last December. He promised to not fear cancer, not even through the 12 chemotherapy sessions.

He returned to the field nine months after he announced his diagnosis, becoming a first-team All-ACC selection. In addition to his rushing totals, he also had 20 catches for 299 yards and four touchdowns — all career-high marks.

“I don’t know if mere words can adequately express how I feel about James Conner,” Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi wrote on Twitter. “His strength, his courage and his kindness have impacted all of us beyond measure. I’m forever grateful to be part of his life these past two years.”

Conner’s 56 career touchdowns are the most in ACC history, and his 3,701 career rushing yards rank second in Pitt history behind Tony Dorsett. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Conner ranked second among Power 5 conference players over the past four seasons with multiple rushing touchdowns in 15 games.

He was the 2014 ACC player of the year, but he tore his MCL in the 2015 opener and missed the remainder of the season.

No. 23 Pittsburgh plays against Northwestern New Era Pinstripe Bowl on Dec. 28.

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