Royalty noun, plural royalties: royal status, dignity, or power; sovereignty: to be elevated to royalty. 2. character or quality proper to or befitting a sovereign; nobility. Some folks inherit regal status upon the death of a relative or a person of royal status bestowing a royal title upon them. However, some folks possess such strength of character and determination that the throne room and the throne is their only justifiable destination.
The character and spirit of some of these individuals are instrumental in the creation the miniature kingdoms that their subjects inhabit by choice, displaying a fierce and unwavering loyalty. One of those individuals is University of Pittsburgh running back, James Connor. On Saturday September 3, 2016 Connor returned to competition at Heinz Field to face the Villanova Wildcats after basically missing all of the 2015 season facing injury and health issues.
Before he was injured and became ill Connor may have declared to enter the NFL draft at the end of his junior year and would have almost been a sure first round selection by an NFL squad. At the conclusion of his second year at Pitt, Connor was selected the Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Year after rushing for 1,765 yards and 26 touchdowns. Conner was named to seven postseason All-America squads, including first-team honors from the AFCA. That all occurred in 2014.
On September 7, 2015 Connor was ruled out for the season after suffering a knee injury against Youngstown State University. On Dec. 4, 2015 Connor announced he had been diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma. “When I heard those words–`You have cancer’–I admit I was scared,” Conner said. “But after thinking about it for a bit, I realized that fear is a choice. I choose to not fear cancer. I choose to fight it and I will win. I know there are so many people in the world who were told by their doctors this week that they also have cancer. I want them to know that together we can–and will–beat cancer. I will play football again. I will be at Heinz Field again.”
Less than a year after suffering the season ending knee injury as well as battling life threatening cancer, James Connor has resumed threatening opposing defenses, by running the ball for the Pitt Panthers. Don’t forget, Connor could play a little defense too.
The King is dead, long live the King. Although LeBron James is the best basketball player in the galaxy, it is hard for me to imagine him or any other human being suffering a severe knee injury as well as being diagnosed with cancer and returning to to compete in less than a year.
I have never heard or seen such strength, courage and determination exhibited by any human being in or out of the sports world, perhaps because that human being may not exist.
James Connor is a separate universe. He is not merely a human being, Connor is a place. He has his own zip code and area code. Not one of us is qualified in even thinking that we can operate within his borders. There is no EZ Pay or Toll amount that will allow us to get on the James Connor I-FGD “freeway of grit and determination.”
James Connor also has all of his priorities in order. He understands that no one can play football or do anything else beyond the grave. “[Having the doctors and the nurses in the crowd] meant the world to me. They saved my life. Every treatment, Dr. (Stanley) Marks, all of my nurses and everybody associated with the hospital helped save my life. For them to be there and experience this with me is awesome.” The caregivers for James Connor may have helped Pitt salvage a few vital games for the school as well.
Connor also spoke about his “comeback.” “It was just good to get that first touchdown out of the way because I knew a lot of people were anticipating it. Once I did that, I told myself that we weren’t done yet, but it felt good to finally get back in that end zone. I thought we were [the offensive line] in sync. They gave us a few different looks, but I trust those guys and I wouldn’t want to run behind anybody else. Everybody has something to work on, but we can watch the film and get better. But my offensive line…I love those guys.”
You can be reasonably sure that those guys love and respect James Connor as well. As far as pacing himself in the heat of battle, I, probably like a few others may have incorrectly surmised that after enduring such performance/health related issues over the past year, James Connor would have paced himself during his first game back but he flat out put that assumption to rest, emphatically saying: “I leave it all out there on the field.
When a King returns from a great victory and instead of subjecting his kingdom to vanity and ego, rules with, compassion, love, honor and respect everyone wins and prospers. James Connor, you are more than a football player with shoulder pads and cleats. You are truly regal and the flame of your “life light” is blazing. Welcome back to your rightful place on the gridiron your majesty, welcome home.
Aubrey Bruce is the Senior Sports Columnist for the New Pittsburgh Courier. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412.583.6741
Follow him on Twitter@ultrascribe