James Conner has been named the 2019 recipient of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Ed Block Courage Award, the team announced Wednesday morning. The award is annually given to “one player from every NFL team who exemplifies commitment to the principles of sportsmanship and courage.”
Conner was voted by teammates to receive it for persevering on his NFL journey since battling and beating cancer while at Pitt. Diagnosed with Hodgkin Lymphoma in December of 2015, he returned to the football field for the 2016 Panthers’ opener. That year, he led Pitt with nearly 1100 yards rushing and 16 touchdowns and was declared cancer free in May of 2016.
The Steelers drafted him in the third round of the 2016 draft. It was an emotional moment, covered by WTAE, a local Pittsburgh news station following his journey.
After sitting behind Le’Veon Bell his rookie year, he assumed the starting role in 2018, running for nearly 1000 yards and 12 rushing touchdowns, numbers that would’ve been even greater had it not been for a high ankle sprain that limited him the latter half of the year.
“Conner Strong” has become one of his and the city’s mantras, a phrase he has tattooed on his arm as a reminder of what he’s been through.
“It’s an honor first and foremost to be recognized, but especially by my teammates, the ones I am with every day,” Conner told Steelers.com’s Teresa Varley after winning the award. “They are the ones I go to practice with, compete on the field, essentially go to war with. For my teammates to vote for me shows the mutual respect we have for one another and it’s such an honor to win this.”
Through six games this season, Conner has rushed for 235 yards on the ground while catching a team high 26 passes and five total touchdowns.
Previous winners of the award include:
2018 – Ryan Shazier
2017 – Artie Burns
2016 – Maurkice Pouncey
2015 – William Gay
2014 – Sean Spence
2013 – Heath Miller
2012 – Willie Colon
2011 – Max Starks