James Conner Shares Incredible Text Aaron Donald Sent Him After Cancer Diagnosis In 2015

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Today in Why Sports Are Bigger Than Sports: We feature the incredible story of resurgence by Steelers running back James Conner.

The holdout of Le’Veon Bell gave the 23-year-old an opportunity to shine in his second season–rushing for 909 yards and 12 touchdowns in 12 games and securing his first Pro Bowl nod of his young career. His production is made even more impressive when you consider three years ago, he was diagnosed with stage 2 Hodgkin’s Lymphoma at the University of Pittsburgh months after he tore his MCL on the first game of the season.

Conner has been cancer-free since 2016, and to honor his first Pro Bowl, he shared a text message on social media from 2013 teammate Aaron Donald after he received his diagnosis.

Conner accompanied the screenshot with the below caption:

3 years ago big bro @aarondonald99 sent me this text after I got diagnosed with cancer. Today special because it’s all coming to reality..1 Pro Bowl down , more to come.. thank you for the motivation bro.. Hard work pays off!


Conner obviously holds his former teammate in high regard. Donald is coming off a season when he won Defensive Player of the Year for the Los Angeles Rams and is having another stellar season, amassing 16.5 sacks, 48 tackles, and 34 hits on the quarterback.

Real recognize real.

[h/t CBS Sports]

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Matt’s love of writing was born during a sixth grade assembly when it was announced that his essay titled “Why Drugs Are Bad” had taken first prize in D.A.R.E.’s grade-wide contest. The anti-drug people gave him a $50 savings bond for his brave contribution to crime-fighting, and upon the bond’s maturity 10 years later, he used it to buy his very first bag of marijuana.