NFL player told he had 'about a week' to live after cancer diagnosis

Chemo helped Pro Bowler beat aggressive lymphoma

By Allen Kim, CNN
Getty Images

James Conner celebrates after scoring against the Los Angeles Chargers on Dec. 2, 2018, in Pittsburgh.

(CNN) - Pittsburgh Steelers running back James Conner expected 2015 to be a good year. It didn't work out that way.

As the starting running back for the University of Pittsburgh, Conner was poised for a breakout season as a junior. But during the team's first game against Youngstown State, he tore his medial collateral ligament (MCL).

However, that was not the worst moment for Conner.

While rehabbing his MCL, Conner had trouble sleeping and went to a doctor to get additional tests done. That's when they found tumors around his neck and chest and diagnosed him with stage 2 Hodgkin lymphoma.

"The doctor told me I had about a week left," Conner said on Mike Seander's podcast. "He said, 'You got about a week.' If you didn't get this treated, you had about a week at the rate it was growing."

Conner began chemotherapy, and after six months, he was declared cancer free in May of 2016. He returned to school to play the following season and was named 2016 First Team All-ACC after he rushed for 1,092 yards and scored 20 touchdowns.

Conner would go on to be selected in the third round of the 2017 NFL draft by the Steelers, and he served as the backup to former teammate Le'Veon Bell during his rookie season.

However, after Bell chose to hold out and sit out the entire 2018 season, it paved the way for Conner to take the starting job. Conner responded by totaling 1,470 yards of offense while scoring 13 touchdowns, and he was named to the 2018 Pro Bowl.

The-CNN-Wire ™ & © 2019 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.