James Conner (American football)

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James Conner
No. 30 – Pittsburgh Steelers
Position:Running back
Personal information
Born: (1995-05-05) May 5, 1995 (age 23)
Erie, Pennsylvania
Height:6 ft 1 in (1.85 m)
Weight:233 lb (106 kg)
Career information
High school:McDowell
(Millcreek Township, Pennsylvania)
NFL Draft:2017 / Round: 3 / Pick: 105
Career history
Roster status:Active
Career highlights and awards
  • AFCA 1st team All-American (2014)
  • ACC Player of the Year (2014)
  • ACC Offensive Player of the Year (2014)
  • ACC Brian Piccolo Award (2016)
  • First-team All-ACC (2014, 2016)
Career NFL statistics as of Week 10, 2018
Rushing attempts:196
Rushing yards:915
Rushing touchdowns:10
Receiving yards:387
Receiving touchdowns:1
Player stats at NFL.com

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[edit]

Conner attended McDowell High School in Erie, Pennsylvania.[1] He was a running back and defensive lineman on the football team. 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.[2]

College career[edit]

2013 season[edit]

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.[3] 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.[4] 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 Caesar's Bowl.[5] He was named the 2013 Little Caesars Pizza Bowl MVP.[6] He led the team in rushing yards with 799 and rushing touchdowns with eight.[7][8][9] Conner's 229 rushing yards broke Tony Dorsett's school record for rushing yards in a bowl game.[10][11]

2014 season[edit]

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.[12] 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.[13] The next game, he passed two hundred 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.[14]In his sophomore season in 2014, Conner rushed for 1,765 yards on 298 attempts and set an ACC record with 26 rushing touchdowns.[15] He led the ACC in rushing yards and ranked 7th in the FBS.[16] At the end of the season, he was named the ACC Player of the Year[17] and garnered AFCA first-team All-American honors.

2015 season[edit]

On September 5, 2015, Conner tore his MCL during the Panther's season opening 45-37 victory over Youngstown State. He finished the game with eight carries for 77 rushing yards and scored two rushing touchdowns and missed his entire junior season.[18] He was also diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma during the rehab process and was finally cancer-free during the off-season.[19]

2016 season[edit]

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.[20] The next game, Conner had 22 attempts for 117 rushing yards and tied his career-high of four rushing touchdowns in a 42–39 victory over Penn State. He also had four receptions, 29 receiving yards, and a touchdown reception against Penn State.[21] 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.[22] 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.[23][24]

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.[25]

College career statistics[edit]

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[edit]

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.[26] Conner was ranked the 12th best running back available in the draft by Sports Illustrated and the 15th best running back by DraftScout.com.[27]

External video
James Conner’s NFL Combine Workout
James Conner runs the 40-yard dash in 4.65s
Pre-draft measurables
Ht Wt Arm length Hand size 40-yard dash 10-yd split 20-yd split 20-ss 3-cone Vert jump Broad BP
6 ft 1 12 in
(1.87 m)
233 lb
(106 kg)
31 14 in
(0.79 m)
9 78 in
(0.25 m)
4.65 s 1.63 s 2.69 s 4.40 s 7.14 s 29 in
(0.74 m)
9 ft 5 in
(2.87 m)
20 reps
All values from NFL Combine/Pittsburgh's Pro Day[28]


The Pittsburgh Steelers selected Conner in the third round (105th overall) of the 2017 NFL Draft.[29] Conner was the eighth running back selected in the draft.[30] He had the top selling NFL jersey throughout July, beating all rookies, as well as Marshawn Lynch, Von Miller, Dak Prescott, and Tom Brady.[31]

External video
Steelers draft James Conner 105th overall

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.[32][33]

He 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.[34]

He made his professional regular season debut in the Pittsburgh Steelers’ season-opener at the Cleveland Browns and had four carries for 11-yards in their 21–18 victory.[35] In Week 4, Conner had four carries for a season-high 26 rushing yards in a 26–9 victory at the Baltimore Ravens. On December 29, 2017, the Pittsburgh Steelers placed Conner on injured reserve due to an MCL injury that required surgery. He finished his rookie season in 2017 with 144 rushing yards on 32 carries with no touchdowns.[36]


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.

He made his first career start in the Pittsburgh Steelers’ season-opener at the Cleveland Browns and had 31 carries for 135 rushing yards and two touchdowns in their 21–21 tie. Conner scored his first career touchdown on a four-yard run in the first quarter and also had five receptions for 47-yards during the game. Conner’s 135-yard performance led all players in rushing yards during Week 1.[37] In Week 5, a 41–17 victory over the Atlanta Falcons, Conner had 110 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns to go along with four receptions for 75 yards.[38] 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. 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. 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.[39][40]

NFL statistics[edit]

Year Team Games Rushing Fumbles
G GS Att Yards Avg Long TD Fum Lost
2017 PIT 14 0 32 144 4.5 23 0 0 0
2018 PIT 9 8 164 771 4.7 30 10 3 1
Career 23 8 196 915 4.7 30 10 3 1


Personal life[edit]

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.[42] He majored in communication at Pitt.[43]

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."[44] 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.[25] 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.[45]

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.[45]

On May 23, 2016, Conner announced on Twitter that he was cancer free.[46]

During the 2018 season, Conner began growing a mullet, which became popular among Steeler fans and fully embracing the Yinzer culture with the hairstyle.[47] Conner joined many other Pittsburgh natives and/or sports stars that have sported the hairstyle, most prominently former Pittsburgh Penguins superstar Jaromír Jágr.[48]


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  2. ^ McDowell defensive end Conner commits to Pitt
  3. ^ "Florida State at Pitt Box Score, September 2, 2013". College Football at Sports-Reference.com. Retrieved 2018-03-23.
  4. ^ "New Mexico at Pitt Box Score, September 14, 2013". College Football at Sports-Reference.com. Retrieved 2018-03-23.
  5. ^ "Little Caesars Bowl - Pitt vs Bowling Green State Box Score, December 26, 2013". College Football at Sports-Reference.com. Retrieved 2018-03-23.
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  8. ^ "2013 Pitt Panthers Stats". College Football at Sports-Reference.com. Retrieved 2018-03-23.
  9. ^ "James Conner leads Pittsburgh past Bowling Green". USA TODAY. Retrieved 2018-10-29.
  10. ^ Gorman, Kevin. "Gorman: A Pitt great compliments Conner". TribLive. Retrieved 2018-10-29.
  11. ^ "James Conner breaks Pittsburgh bowl rushing record, plays defense in Pizza Bowl win over Bowling Green". Lehigh Valley Live. Retrieved 2018-10-29.
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  13. ^ "Duke at Pitt Box Score, November 1, 2014". College Football at Sports-Reference.com. Retrieved 2018-03-23.
  14. ^ "Pitt at North Carolina Box Score, November 15, 2014". College Football at Sports-Reference.com. Retrieved 2018-03-23.
  15. ^ "Sports-Reference: James Conner 2014 Game Logs". Sports-Reference.com. Retrieved December 10, 2016.
  16. ^ FBS (I-A) Player Rushing Statistics – 2014
  17. ^ James Conner is ACC Player of Year
  18. ^ "Youngstown State at Pitt Box Score, September 5, 2015". College Football at Sports-Reference.com. Retrieved 2018-03-23.
  19. ^ "Pittsburgh star James Conner diagnosed with cancer". USA TODAY. Retrieved 2018-10-29.
  20. ^ "Villanova at Pitt Box Score, September 3, 2016". College Football at Sports-Reference.com. Retrieved 2018-03-23.
  21. ^ "Penn State at Pitt Box Score, September 10, 2016". College Football at Sports-Reference.com. Retrieved 2018-03-23.
  22. ^ "Pitt at Oklahoma State Box Score, September 17, 2016". College Football at Sports-Reference.com. Retrieved 2018-03-23.
  23. ^ "Virginia Tech at Pitt Box Score, October 27, 2016". College Football at Sports-Reference.com. Retrieved 2018-03-23.
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  25. ^ a b Goodbread, Chase (December 10, 2016). "Pitt RB Name Conner intends to enter the 2017 NFL Draft". NFL.com. Retrieved December 10, 2016.
  26. ^ "NFL Draft Profile: James Conner". NFL.com. Retrieved May 12, 2017.
  27. ^ Burke, Chris (April 24, 2017). "2017 NFL draft rankings: Top prospects by position". si.com. Retrieved May 12, 2017.
  28. ^ "*James Conner, DS No. 15 RB, Pittsburgh", NFLdraftscout.com, retrieved May 12, 2017
  29. ^ Patra, Kevin. "Steelers take James Conner as RB stays in Pittsburgh". NFL.com. Retrieved April 28, 2017.
  30. ^ "Draft Finder Query Results". Pro-Football-Reference.com. Retrieved 2018-02-10.
  31. ^ Dan Hanzus (July 26, 2017). "Backup rookie RB has NFL's hottest-selling jersey". NFL.com. Retrieved October 6, 2017.
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  33. ^ "Spotrac.com: James Conner contract". Spotrac.com. Retrieved October 11, 2018.
  34. ^ "Ourlads.com: Pittsburgh Steeler's depth chart: 08/01/2017". ourlads.com. Retrieved October 6, 2017.
  35. ^ "Pittsburgh Steelers at Cleveland Browns - September 10th, 2017". Pro-Football-Reference.com. Retrieved September 24, 2017.
  36. ^ Varley, Teresa (December 19, 2017). "Steelers sign Ridley". Steelers.com.
  37. ^ "Steelers vs. Browns - Box Score - September 9, 2018 - ESPN". ESPN.com. Retrieved 2018-10-01.
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  40. ^ Shook, Nick (November 1, 2018). "Todd Gurley, James Conner lead players of October". NFL.com.
  41. ^ "James Conner stats". ESPN Internet Ventures. Retrieved 30 October 2018.
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  43. ^ "Pittsburgh Panthers Biography: James Conner". PittsburghPanthers.com. Retrieved December 10, 2016.
  44. ^ Pitt's James Conner Diagnosed with Hodgkin Lymphoma
  45. ^ a b Travis Haney (April 21, 2016). "Pitt running back James Conner to appear on 'The Ellen DeGeneres Show'". ESPN.com. Retrieved December 10, 2016.
  46. ^ Chase Goodbread (May 23, 2016). "Pittsburgh RB James Conner announces he is cancer-free". NFL.com. Retrieved December 10, 2016.
  47. ^ https://pittnews.com/article/39197/archives/mullets-a-pittsburgh-tradition/
  48. ^ http://www.espn.com/blog/pittsburgh-steelers/post/_/id/28676/steelers-james-conner-embraces-unique-haircut-planning-more-styles

External links[edit]