James Conner, Pitt's inspirational RB, to throw 1st pitch at Pirates opener

James Conner will throw out the first pitch for the Pirates season opener. (Pitt Football)

Pittsburgh running back James Conner was already a star before his cancer diagnosis and inspirational battle resulted in additional headlines. Conner was named the ACC Player of the Year in 2014 after totaling 26 rushing touchdowns and more than 1,700 rushing yards.

The following season was ended prematurely by a knee injury, and then Conner announced in December that had been diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma. Since then, he's been balancing the treatments with non-contact workouts.

Conner's been an inspiration to his teammates and coaches -- "Fear is a choice," Conner says. "I choose to not fear cancer. I choose to fight it, and I will win." -- and this weekend he'll be the center of attention for the Pittsburgh Pirates' season opener on Sunday. 

"I'm honored and thrilled to throw out the first pitch for the Pirates' season opener, and I want to thank everyone in the organization for this incredible invitation," Conner said. "It has been a long time since I played baseball but I'll make sure my arm is ready to throw a strike on Sunday. The Bucs’ road to the World Series begins this weekend and I can't wait to be at PNC Park."

Conner's fight has included videos of him on the treadmill and going through drills with his teammates. 

The Pirates host the St. Louis Cardinals on Sunday, with Conner's first pitch set for 1:05 p.m. ET. 

CBS Sports Writer

Chip Patterson has spent his young career covering college sports from the Old North State. He's been writing and talking about football and basketball for CBS Sports since 2010. You may have heard him... Full Bio

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