Football with a surgical mask? That’s the only way that University of Pittsburgh running back James Conner can practice. That’s because he’s fighting Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and is more susceptible to illness.
Diagnosed in December, he continued practicing while starting his first of 12 chemotherapy treatments. With a port inserted into his chest, he couldn’t be tackled, but he could still take part in running and catching drills.
“If you think you’re having a bad day and you see him in practice with one of those [surgical] masks on, it’s amazing,” teammate Matt Galambos said in a pre-taped video on the Ellen Degeneres Show.
Conner went on Ellen’s show this week to not only share his story, but to be surprised by Kansas City Chiefs safety Eric Berry, who returned to the NFL last season after beating the same type of cancer.
Berry called Conner upon hearing about his diagnosis to offer him some words of encouragement, but the two had never met until Ellen announced, “Eric, come on out.”
What a great moment.
Berry’s advice to anyone dealing with cancer is on point.
“Just never limit yourself, you know what I’m saying? Anything you’re going through, you’re really battling yourself. It’s never about the chemo, it’s never about the cancer, it’s all about what you’re willing to put in to overcome whatever the obstacle is.”
Conner has one final treatment remaining on May 9. Then, he will wait four weeks before doing another scan to see if the cancer is gone.
This is one guy who is ready to be tackled again.