Pitt RB James Conner participates fully in opening practice

Pitt running back James Conner, after a successful offseason bout with Hodgkin lymphoma, returned to the practice field with no restrictions Monday as the Panthers opened fall camp. The 2014 ACC Player of the Year, who underwent a dozen chemotherapy treatments as part of his recovery, said he never questioned whether he would make it back to the gridiron.

"I never had any doubt. I've got a great support staff, from my hometown to all of Pittsburgh. I never fought it alone. I never had any doubt," Conner said, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "I might have hit walls. Treatment six, the halfway mark, and treatment 11, when I could see the light but it was getting worse as it went on. There were times when I was down, but I never thought once I wasn't going to play football again or wouldn't live."

Conner rushed for 1,765 yards and 26 touchdowns as a sophomore in 2014 to earn ACC Player of the Year honors, but suffered a knee injury last year in the Panthers' season opener against Youngstown State and did not play for the rest of the season.

The fourth-year junior was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma in December. Through his treatments, he worked out with the team as much as possible.

"I can't say he ever wasn't out there," Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi said. "That's the crazy thing."

In a spring appearance on the Ellen DeGeneres Show, Conner got a surprise introduction to Kansas City Chiefs safety Eric Berry, who overcame Hodgkin lymphoma as well. Conner learned he was cancer-free in May, setting the stage for his return to football this fall.

Conner's season debut figures to be Sept. 3, when Pitt opens the season as host to Villanova.

Follow Chase Goodbread on Twitter *@ChaseGoodbread*.

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