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College Football Super Survivors: Sports Figures Who Survived Cancer


Cancer can affect anyone at anytime, including sports figures. In our ongoing series Super Surivors, we look back at those who've battled cancer and survived. Here's a look at those in college football.

James Conner

James Conner

Conner had a season for the ages as a sophomore at Pittsburgh, rushing for 1,765 yards and an ACC-record 26 touchdowns and earning ACC Player of the Year honors. The next season, Conner found himself in the fight of his life after a double dose of distressing medical news: a season-ending MCL tear and, during the rehab process, a diagnosis of Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The 6-2, 235-pounder met his cancer diagnosis with the same determination and grit that he used to batter opposing defenses. On May 23, 2016, after 12 rounds of chemotherapy, Conner made the announcement via Twitter that he was cancer free. An inspirational senior season yielded 1,092 rushing yards and 20 TDs and earned Conner a third-round draft slot with the hometown Steelers, who signed him to a four-year contract.

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Mark Herzlich

One of the most inspirational players in college football history, Herzlich was coming off a 2008 season for the Boston College Eagles in which he had 110 tackles and six interceptions and earned first-team All-America honors when he received some devastating news: a diagnosis of Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer. In announcing the news, Herzlich shared his plans to subdue his new opponent in much the same way that he dominated opponents on the field: “I had been extremely focused on preparing for my senior season at Boston College and for life beyond that. Now, I must channel all that energy into facing my toughest opponent yet, and that is exactly what I will do…At this point, I do not know what this means for my football future, but I am determined to rid my body of this disease so that I can put that uniform back on. Thank you in advance for your prayers and concern. Together, we will fight this and win.” Win he did, returning to the Eagles for the 2010 season and earning the attention of the New York Giants, who signed him as an undrafted free agent. Herzlich has 173 career tackles in six NFL seasons. 

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Mitchell Meyers

The defensive lineman had started every game of the 2014 season for the Iowa State Cyclones when cancer put his career and his life on hold. Diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in February 2015, Meyers missed the 2015 season while undergoing treatment — but he was determined not to let cancer put an end to his career in Ames. Meyers beat his cancer and then reclaimed his starting defensive end job as a redshirt senior in 2016, a season in which he would start every game and post 28 tackles and 4.5 tackles for a loss. “I kind of said that from the beginning that I wanted to go out on my own terms and I think I have,” Meyers said prior to his last game.