PITTSBURGH — Running back James Conner‘s inspiring story has resonated with NFL fans before he’s played a down in the NFL.
The Pittsburgh Steelers rookie ranks No. 2 among all NFL players on the Dick’s Sporting Goods’ jersey report, behind New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and directly ahead of Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott.
Steelers teammate Antonio Brown is one of the NFL’s biggest stars but is eight spots behind Conner, who is expected to be Le’Veon Bell‘s backup this season. In May, NFLShop.com ranked Conner No. 11 in sales.
While a star playmaker at Pitt, Conner captivated college football by overcoming Hodgkin lymphoma in 2015. Videos of Conner in a medical mask practicing with his team between treatments went viral. Conner returned to the lineup in 2016 and posted 20 total touchdowns.
The Steelers drafted him in the third round, No. 105 overall.
“It’s a dream come true,” said Conner about staying in Pittsburgh. “They gave me the opportunity of a lifetime, and they are going to get a hard worker and a great football player.”
Conner is cancer-free but wondered if his medical history made some teams hesitant. The Steelers, however, make clear that they expect Conner to produce and don’t view him as a sentimental story. The team sees him as a tough, downhill runner at 6-foot-2 and 240 pounds who has pass-catching ability out of the backfield.