James Conner’s path to the NFL Combine was unique. He went from ACC Player of the Year in 2014 to missing 2015 while battling Hodgkin’s Lymphoma to combining for 1,300+ total yards and 20 touchdowns (16 rushing, four receiving) in 2016.
Needless to say, the Pitt running back prospect treasured every second in Indy.
“It was a blessing to be a part of,” Conner told Damon Amendolara, who was filling in as host of CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “It was a great experience, something I’ll always remember. I met a lot of great people, a lot of great talent, and it was just an overall good time in Indianapolis. I had 12 meetings with teams and kind of said the same thing to each team, which is telling them that I’m healthy and I’m a guy they can count on. I got to explain my story and my side of it, and I think it went well. I think I had some great interviews.”
NFL teams, by and large, want the same thing in a running back: someone who is physically and mentally tough, someone who can handle the load, someone who can just go out and get the job done.
“That’s me,” Conner said. “I just need one (team) to take a chance and believe in me.”
Conner, interestingly enough, had a chance to hang out with Ben Roethlisberger in February. The two spent some time on the field together and even played a little ping pong.
“We got to throw around a little bit, so that was pretty cool,” Conner said. “We were out there in Irvine, California, tossing a football. It was cool just to go out there with a legend like Ben and listen and learn from him. It was a good experience.”
Roethlisberger has won two Super Bowls and played in another. In all likelihood, he’s a future Hall of Famer.
That’s where Conner would like to be someday, too.
“You just see how much they love the game and how much it means to them and how passionate (they) are,” Conner said. “Every little thing they do is detail-oriented and they want to win. You learn how serious they take it and that’s really what you learn. You got to have a love and a passion for (football) to survive in the league.”