The college football world was stunned when Pittsburgh running back James Conner, who missed the bulk of the 2015 season due to a knee injury, announced he is battling cancer. Despite his ongoing bout with Stage 2 Hodgkin’s lymphoma in his neck and chest, Conner is said to be in great physical shape and looks he could even be ready to play for the Panthers this fall once he beats cancer.
“I saw him yesterday in the hallway and he’s been working out with our kids to keep his sanity and he’s having fun doing it,” Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi said recently to ESPN.com reporter James Shanker. “That’s the key is he’s having fun beating cancer and he’s got a great attitude and he looks good right now. He’s doing well and looks well. Doesn’t look like he lost weight. Looks like he could still play. He doesn’t look like he has cancer.”
Conner declared his intention to play football again when he announced his cancer to the world last December.
“I will play football again,” Conner said in early December. “I will be at Heinz Field again. I have the best coaches and teammates in the country. I thank God I chose Pitt because now I also have the best doctors in the country and together we will win. I know this city has my back.”
The former ACC Player of the Year is receiving financial support from Pitt to handle the costs of the treatments, which is allowed by the NCAA for special circumstances. This is certainly a special circumstance. Per NCAA rules, Conner and his family are required to have personal insurance but schools may pick up the tab for remaining costs not covered by the student’s insurance coverage. Pitt is able to lend its support because cancer is affecting Conner’s ability to play football.
The college football world will continue to root for Conner as he works his way back to the football field.
Nearly three weeks after clearing out a pair of spots on his offensive coaching staff, Pat Narduzzi has filled in those self-created holes.
Jan. 4, Shawn Watson was fired as Pitt’s offensive coordinator, replaced a little over a week later by former UMass head coach Mark Whipple. The same day Watson was fired, Kevin Sherman was dismissed as wide receivers coach; Wednesday, Pitt confirmed that Chris Beatty has been hired as Sherman’s replacement.
Sherman spent the past three seasons at Maryland as receivers coach. He also served as co-offensive coordinator and held the title of associate head coach while with the Terrapins.
“Chris is an absolutely outstanding addition to our staff,” Narduzzi said in a statement. “His expertise goes well beyond one position on the offensive side of the ball. That diverse experience is going to be an incredible asset for our players and entire coaching staff. He is also a highly driven recruiter with valuable contacts in so many key areas. We are looking forward to welcoming Chris, his wife Kris and his son Aaron to both Pitt and Pittsburgh.”
Prior to Maryland, Beatty spent time on Power Five coaching staffs at Virginia (2015), Wisconsin (2013-14), Illinois (2012), Vanderbilt (2011) and West Virginia (2008-10). In addition to receivers, he’s also coaching quarterbacks and running backs.
A legend is coming home to The Plains. Reportedly.
According to Scout.com and FootballScoop.com among others, Cadillac Williams is set to be named as the next running backs coach at Auburn. Williams would replace Tim Horton, who moved into an off-field role earlier this month.
An official announcement on Williams’ hiring could come as early as today.
Williams played running back for the Tigers from 2001-04, finishing with 3,831 yards and 45 touchdowns on 741 attempts. The carries were the most in AU history at the time of his departure, while the yards and touchdowns were second to Bo Jackson.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers made Williams the fifth pick of the 2005 NFL Draft, and he went on to win Offensive Rookie of the Year honors. H ended up playing seven years in the NFL before retiring following the end of the 2011 season.
The 36-year-old Williams’ coaching career began in 2016 as an offensive graduate assistant at Div. II West Georgia. He went to IMG Academy in Florida as running backs coach before moving on to the same position the Birmingham franchise in the newly-created Alliance of American Football.
UPDATED 2:36 p.m. ET: Based on a tweet from Auburn football’s official Twitter account, Williams’ return to the Tigers is official.
Sadly, there’s more tragic news involving a college football player on which to report.
According to multiple media outlets, University of Montana Grizzly football player Andrew Harris was found dead at his residence in Missoula Tuesday. The Missoulian writes that “police are investigating the scene as a suicide.”
Harris was just 22 years old.
“We extend our deepest sympathies to Andrew’s family and friends at this difficult time,” university president Seth Bodnar said in a statement sent out to the Missoulian. “The entire UM family mourns his loss and our hearts go out to all who knew him.”
A redshirt junior, Harris was a defensive lineman who played in 11 games during his time with the Griz. Our thoughts, prayers and condolences going out to all of those impacted by Harris’ passing.
And for those in the reading audience: The phone number for the Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. Please, pick up the phone and call that number if you ever get to the point where you feel like you just can’t go on. Or call somebody, anybody.
Another day, another trip into the infamous portal.
The latest to put his name onto the free-agent market is Ty’Son Williams, who a South Carolina official has confirmed is now listed in the NCAA transfer database. If Williams follows through with the move — he can always remove his name from the database and return — it would be the running back’s second transfer as he came to USC in August of 2016 after beginning his collegiate playing career at North Carolina.
As Williams would be leaving as a graduate transfer, he’d be eligible to play immediately at another FBS school if he ultimately decides to leave.
Williams was third on the Gamecocks with 328 yards rushing in 2018, while his four rushing touchdowns tied for the team lead. The year before, his first on the field at USC after sitting out the 2016 season to satisfy NCAA transfer rules, he was second on the team in yards (471) and yards per carry (5.0).
A four-star member of UNC’s 2016 recruiting class, Williams was rated as the No. 21 running back in the country and the No. 5 player at any position in the state of South Carolina.