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James Conner gave this beautiful interview after beating cancer and having a huge season

Pitt’s redshirt junior had a season that lived up to his own inspiring image.

NCAA Football: Syracuse at Pittsburgh Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

In December in Atlanta, Pitt running back James Conner accepted the Disney Sports Spirit Award, given out every year to an inspirational figure in college football. It’s worth recounting just how inspirational a run Conner has had.

In September 2015, Conner blew out his knee in the first game of Pitt’s season -- his junior year. Conner was coming off a 1,700-yard season and was to be Pitt’s best player, but instead, he had an injury rehab ahead of him. It stunk, and then it got worse.

In November of that year, doctors in Pittsburgh diagnosed Conner with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. They assessed he had a good chance to beat the disease, but cancer is cancer.

He had a long road ahead of him, but Conner fought. He underwent regular chemotherapy, and he even did things like run football drills in a protective mask while he was still in treatment.

He was declared cancer-free in May, weeks after his last chemo. And Conner just kept churning, working himself into game shape by the football season in the fall.

He led his team out of the tunnel for the first game of the year:

Nobody had to say anything for it to be emotional.

And then Conner went and had a great season.

It was quite a year for running backs, and Conner wasn’t a finalist for the Doak Walker Award. He won’t make first-team All-American.

But he was nonetheless terrific for a Pitt team that finished the regular season ranked and had wins over top-five Clemson and Penn State. Conner’s numbers were great even before considering what he’d gone through.

He ran 208 times for 1,060 yards and 16 touchdowns. He caught 20 passes for 299 yards and four more scores. He was a participant in the highest-scoring FBS game of all time. He ran for 132 yards — his second-highest total of the year — in the Panthers’ wild win at Clemson, which still holds as the single best resume win by any team all year. He was an elite player less than four months after beating cancer.

College football isn’t perfect. But what James Conner did to get back to it, and do so well in it? That’s pretty perfect. Congrats on a well-earned honor.