There aren’t a lot of people who can say that they overcame cancer and then went on to have a successful career as a professional athlete at the highest level. James Conner, the fourth-year starting running back for the Pittsburgh Steelers, would be one of them.
He was back to playing football in his final season with the Pittsburgh Panthers shortly after he was given a clean bill of health. He wasn’t even so far removed from that point when he first took the field with the Steelers.
While it is and will always be a part of his story, however, four years on, he is more than glad to be able to look at it in the rearview mirror, particularly with respect to how it could affect his day-to-day life. And now, living through the coronavirus pandemic, one wonders what that might mean for someone like him.
Adam Schefter asked him about the added risks for somebody like him to resume play later this year, especially before there is a vaccine or anything like that, but he didn’t express a great deal of concern for himself.
“It honestly truly doesn’t [impact me]. I’m so far removed from that—I’m going on four years now”, he said. “Just talking with my doctor and stuff—I have a great relationship with him, Dr. Marks—he said, ‘you’ve got nothing to worry about as far as your immune system or any of that’. None of that. I’m far removed. Our bodies are constantly changing and healing. I have no concerns with that. I’m still keeping distance and doing all that just like everybody should be doing, but as far as my health history, it’s nothing I’m concerned about”.
The NFLPA’s medical director Tom Mayer did advise players who might potentially have complicating health factors to take extra precautions and to be “almost maniacally committed” to fighting against spreading the virus.
“I don’t want to downplay it and have people think I don’t think it’s an issue or any of that”, Conner said, falling back upon the conversations that he has had with his own medical professional. “I just believe that we’re gonna keep doing what we’re doing”.
A former third-round pick, he is now heading into the final year of his rookie contract, and facing an uncertain future as to where he might play in 2021. He would love more than anything for a chance to continue to wear the black and gold, but he also understands that may not be a reality.