James Conner (American Football)
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James Conner American Football

James Conner
refer to caption
James Conner in 2019
No. 30 - Pittsburgh Steelers
Position:Running back
Personal information
Born: (1995-05-05) May 5, 1995 (age 24)
Erie, Pennsylvania
Height:6 ft 1 in (1.85 m)
Weight:233 lb (106 kg)
Career information
High school:McDowell
College:Pittsburgh
NFL Draft:2017 / Round: 3 / Pick: 105
Career history
Roster status:Active
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL statistics as of Week 15, 2019

James Earl Conner (born May 5, 1995) is an American football running back for the Pittsburgh Steelers of the National Football League (NFL). He played college football at Pittsburgh, and was drafted by the Steelers in the third round of the 2017 NFL Draft. In 2014, he garnered AFCA first-team All-American honors and was awarded the ACC Player of the Year.

High school career

Conner attended McDowell High School in Erie, Pennsylvania.[1] He was a running back and defensive lineman on the Trojans football team.[2] As a senior, he rushed for 1,680 yards on 155 carries and 26 touchdowns. He committed to play college football at the University of Pittsburgh in August 2012.[3]

College career

2013 season

As a true freshman in 2013, Conner played in 12 of 13 games. He made his collegiate debut during the Panthers' season opening loss to Florida State and had eight carries for 34 yards.[4] The following week, he scored his first career touchdown against New Mexico and finished the win with 12 carries, 119 rushing yards, and a season-high two touchdowns.[5] On December 26, 2013, Conner had a season-high 26 carries for 226 yards and a touchdown during a 30-27 victory over Bowling Green in the Little Caesars Bowl,[6] He was named the 2013 Little Caesars Pizza Bowl MVP.[7] He led the team in rushing yards with 799 and rushing touchdowns with eight.[8][9][10] Conner's 229 rushing yards broke Tony Dorsett's school record for rushing yards in a bowl game.[11][12]

2014 season

Conner started his sophomore season rushing for 153 yards on 14 carries and scored a season-high four touchdowns in the season-opening 62-0 win over Delaware.[13] On November 1, 2014, Conner rushed for a career-high 263 rushing yards on a career-high 38 attempts and scored three touchdowns during a 48-51 double-overtime loss to No. 24 Duke.[14] The next game, he passed 200 yards rushing for a second consecutive game with 30 carries for 220 yards and career-high-tying four touchdowns in a loss to North Carolina.[15] In his sophomore season in 2014, Conner rushed for 1,765 yards on 298 attempts and set an ACC record with 26 rushing touchdowns.[16] He led the ACC in rushing yards and ranked 7th in the FBS.[17][18] At the end of the season, he was named the ACC Player of the Year[19] and garnered AFCA first-team All-American honors.

2015 season

On September 5, 2015, Conner tore his MCL during the Panthers' season opening 45-37 victory over Youngstown State.[20] He finished the game with eight carries for 77 rushing yards and scored two rushing touchdowns but missed the rest of his junior season.[21] He was also diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma during the rehab process and was finally cancer-free during the off-season.[22]

2016 season

Conner played in the Panthers' season-opener against Villanova and finished the victory with 17 carries for 53 yards and a touchdown while also accounting for three receptions for 15 yards and scored his first career touchdown reception.[23] The next game, Conner had 22 attempts for 117 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown in a 42-39 victory over Penn State. He also had four receptions, 29 receiving yards, and a touchdown reception against Penn State.[24] On September 17, 2016, Conner had a season-high 24 carries for 111 rushing yards and a touchdown during a 38-45 loss to Oklahoma State.[25] On October 27, 2016, he had 19 carries, a season-high 141 rushing yards, and three touchdowns in a 36-39 loss to No. 25 Virginia Tech.[26][27]

On December 10, 2016, Conner announced via Twitter that he intended to apply for early eligibility for the 2017 NFL Draft as an underclassman and forgo his senior year at Pitt. Underclassmen had to apply for the draft by January 16, 2017.[28]

College career statistics

NCAA career statistics
Pittsburgh Panthers
Season Team Rushing Receiving
G Att Yds Avg Long TD Rec Yds Avg Long TD
2013 Pittsburgh 12 146 799 5.5 45 8 3 33 11.0 13 0
2014 Pittsburgh 13 298 1,765 5.9 75T 26 5 70 14.0 40 0
2015 Pittsburgh 1 8 77 9.6 40 2 1 7 7.0 7 0
2016 Pittsburgh 13 216 1,092 5.1 40T 16 21 302 14.4 55T 4
Career 39 668 3,733 5.6 75T 52 30 412 13.7 55T 4

Professional career

He attended the NFL Scouting Combine, but chose to perform only the 40-yard dash, broad jump, vertical, and bench press. He completed the three-cone drill, short shuttle, and positional drills at Pitt's Pro Day to finish his combine performance. At the conclusion of the pre-draft process, Conner was projected to be a fifth or sixth round pick by NFL draft scouts and experts.[29] Conner was ranked the 12th best running back available in the draft by Sports Illustrated and the 15th best running back by DraftScout.com.[30]

Pre-draft measurables
Height Weight Arm length Hand size 40-yard dash 10-yd split 20-yd split 20-ss 3-cone Vert jump Broad BP
6 ft  in
(1.87 m)
233 lb
(106 kg)
 in
(0.79 m)
 in
(0.25 m)
29 in
(0.74 m)
9 ft 5 in
(2.87 m)
All values from NFL Combine/Pittsburgh's Pro Day[31][32]

The Pittsburgh Steelers selected Conner in the third round (105th overall) of the 2017 NFL Draft.[33] Conner was the eighth running back selected in the draft.[34] He had the top selling NFL jersey throughout July, beating all rookies, as well as Marshawn Lynch, Von Miller, Dak Prescott, and Tom Brady.[35]

2017 season: Rookie year

On May 11, 2017, the Pittsburgh Steelers signed Conner to a four-year, $3.16 million contract that includes a signing bonus of $706,288.[36][37]

Conner entered training camp competing with veterans Knile Davis and Fitzgerald Toussaint for the vacant backup running back position left by DeAngelo Williams. Davis and Toussaint were released during final roster cutdowns, and Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin named Conner the backup to Le'Veon Bell to begin the regular season.[38]

Conner made his NFL debut in the season-opener at the Cleveland Browns and had four carries for 11 yards in a 21-18 victory.[39] In Week 4, he had four carries for a season-high 26 rushing yards in a 26-9 victory at the Baltimore Ravens. On December 29, 2017, he was placed on injured reserve due to an MCL injury that required surgery.[40] Conner finished his rookie season with 144 rushing yards on 32 carries with no touchdowns.[41]

2018 season

Head coach Mike Tomlin named Conner the starting running back to begin the regular season after Le'Veon Bell's decision to indefinitely hold out due to a contract dispute over a long-term deal.[42]

Conner made his first NFL start in the season-opener at the Cleveland Browns and had 31 carries for 135 rushing yards and two touchdowns in a 21-21 tie. He scored his first NFL touchdown on a 4-yard run in the first quarter and also had five receptions for 47 yards. His 135-yard performance led all players in rushing yards during Week 1.[43] During Week 5 in a 41-17 victory over the Atlanta Falcons, he had 110 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns to go along with four receptions for 75 yards.[44] In Week 6, a 28-21 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals, Conner had 111 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns to go along with four receptions for 18 yards.[45] In Week 8, Conner had the best game of his career to date, rushing for 146 yards on 24 carries and two touchdowns as well as five receptions for 66 yards in a 33-18 rout of the Browns.[46] For his efforts, Conner was named the AFC Offensive Player of the Week along with AFC Offensive Player of the Month for the month of October.[47][48] In the following game, against the Baltimore Ravens, he had 107 rushing yards, 56 receiving yards, and a receiving touchdown in the 23-16 victory.[49] In Week 13, against the Los Angeles Chargers, he suffered a lower leg injury that sidelined him for a few weeks.[50] It was announced on December 18, 2018 that Conner was selected to the 2019 NFL Pro Bowl, his first, and also named the starting running back for the AFC Pro Bowl Team. [51] He returned for the regular season finale against the Cincinnati Bengals.[52] He finished the 2018 season with 973 rushing yards, 12 rushing touchdowns, 55 receptions, 497 receiving yards, and a receiving touchdown.[53] He received an overall grade of 73.0 from Pro Football Focus in 2018, which ranked as the 28th highest grade among all qualifying running backs.[54]

2019 season

In Week 2 against the Seattle Seahawks, Conner injured his knee and exited the game in the third quarter. Prior to being injured, Conner rushed 11 times for 33 yards and his first rushing touchdown of the year. Without Conner, the Steelers lost 26-28. [55] In Week 6 against the Los Angeles Chargers, Conner rushed 16 times for 41 yards and a touchdown and caught 7 passes for 78 yards and a touchdown in the 24-17 win. [56] In Week 8 against the Miami Dolphins on Monday Night Football, Conner rushed 23 times for 145 yards and a touchdown before exiting the game with a shoulder injury. Without Conner, the Steelers won 27-14. [57] He was named the AFC Offensive Player of the Week for his performance. [58] Conner made his return from injury in Week 11 against the Cleveland Browns on Thursday Night Football. In the game, Conner rushed five times for 10 yards and caught one pass for six yards before injuring his shoulder again in the first half. The Steelers eventually lost 21-7 without Conner.[59] Overall, Conner recorded 464 rushing yards and four rushing touchdowns to go along with 34 receptions for 251 receiving yards and three receiving touchdowns.[60]

NFL statistics

Regular season

Year Team Games Rushing Receiving Fumbles
GP GS Att Yds Avg Lng TD Rec Yds Avg Lng TD Fum Lost
2017 PIT 14 0 32 144 4.5 23 0 0 0 0.0 0 0 0 0
2018 PIT 13 12 215 973 4.5 30 12 55 497 9.0 29 1 4 2
Career 27 12 247 1,117 4.5 30 12 55 497 9.0 29 1 4 2

[61]

Personal life

James Conner was raised by his parents, Kelly Patterson and Glen Conner Sr. and is the youngest of five brothers. His brothers are Glen, Richard, Michael and Rico. Glen, Richard and Michael are blood related, while Rico is a stepbrother from his mother's second marriage.[62] He majored in communication at Pitt.[63]

On December 4, 2015, Conner announced he was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma. Despite this, he said "I choose to not fear cancer...I will play football again."[64] After tearing his MCL during the Panthers' first game of 2015, Conner began attending rehab and began experiencing excessive fatigue and other symptoms, leading doctors to perform a chest X-Ray that revealed Hodgkin's Lymphoma.[28] He endured 12 rounds of chemotherapy and completed his last chemo appointment on May 9, 2016. During his treatment, Conner continued to participate in non-contact drills with the Pittsburgh Panthers football team as much as his body would allow.[65]

Conner appeared on the April 21, 2016, episode of The Ellen DeGeneres Show and met Kansas City Chiefs' safety Eric Berry, who also overcame Hodgkin's lymphoma and who Conner saw as an inspirational figure. During Conner's treatment, both players would speak via text but had never met in person.[65]

On May 23, 2016, Conner announced on Twitter that he was cancer free.[66]

During the 2018 season, Conner began growing a mullet, which became popular among Steeler fans and fully embracing the Yinzer culture with the hairstyle.[67] Conner joined many other Pittsburgh natives and/or sports stars that have sported the hairstyle, most prominently former Pittsburgh Penguins superstar Jaromír Jágr.[68]

References

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  3. ^ McDowell defensive end Conner commits to Pitt
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  67. ^ Meinzer, Melissa (October 21, 2002). "Mullets: A Pittsburgh tradition". Pitt News. Retrieved 2019.
  68. ^ Fowler, Jeremy (September 13, 2018). "Steelers' James Conner embraces unique haircut, planning more styles". ESPN.com. Retrieved 2019.

External links


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