Pitt’s Conner Named Winner Of Brian Piccolo Award

Panthers’ running back overcomes cancer, injury to continue standout career

 

 


GREENSBORO, N.C. (theACC.com) – Pitt running back James Conner has been named the recipient of the Atlantic Coast Conference’s 2016 Brian Piccolo Award, ACC Commissioner John Swofford announced Thursday.

The Piccolo Award has been given annually since 1970 in memory of the late Brian Piccolo to the "most courageous" football player in the ACC. As a standout running back at Wake Forest, Piccolo was the ACC Athlete of the Year in 1965 and played for the Chicago Bears before his career was cut short when he was stricken with cancer. His courageous fight against that disease was an inspiration to the Bears and the entire football community.

Conner will be recognized as the 2016 Brian Piccolo Award recipient during the Dr Pepper ACC Football Championship Game, which is set for this Saturday evening at Orlando’s Camping World Stadium. 

Conner was named the ACC Player of the Year following a stellar sophomore season in 2014, when he rushed for 1,765 yards and 26 touchdowns en route to earning first-team All-America honors. But a knee injury in the opening game ended his 2015 season, and the Erie, Pennsylvania, native was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma a few months later.

Six months of grueling chemotherapy followed, but Conner persevered while continuing to rehab his injured knee. Declared cancer free last spring, Conner returned to the playing field this fall to again rank among college football’s elite as a dual-threat runner who has broken the ACC record for career touchdowns (56). The redshirt junior earned first-team All-ACC honors after he finished the 2016 regular season fifth among league rushers with 1,060 yards and scored 20 touchdowns. 

“During the past year, James Conner has touched so many lives beyond the football field,” Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi said. “Yes, he is an exceptional player. But, more importantly, he is an outstanding person who has used his adversity to spread a message of hope and inspiration. 

“Twelve months ago, he was just beginning his fight against cancer. Today, he not only has won that battle, but he also is an All-ACC running back and 1,000-yard rusher. He has an unbreakable spirit that is simply incredible. I have no doubt that Brian Piccolo would be proud that James is the recipient of this very important award.”

Conner has also been honored with the 2016 Disney Sports Spirit Award, given annually to college football’s most inspirational figure. He becomes the first Pitt student-athlete to claim the Brian Piccolo Award since the Panthers joined the ACC prior to the 2013 season.

ACC Brian Piccolo Award Winners
1970       Paul Miller, QB, North Carolina
1971 Jim Webster, LB, North Carolina
1972 Mark Johnson, QB, Duke
1973 Al Neville, QB, Maryland
1974 David Visaggio, DG,  Maryland
1975 Scott Gardner, QB, Virginia
1976 Jeff Green, DE, Duke
1977 Ralph Stringer, DB, NC State
1978 Rex Varn, DB, Clemson
1979 not available
1980 Jack Cain, DB,Clemson
1981 Aaron Stewart, DB, Duke
1982 Kenny Duckett, WR, Wake Forest
1983 John Piedmonte, OLB,Wake Forest
1984 J.D. Maarleveld, T,  Maryland
1985 Danny Burmeister, DB, N. Carolina
1986 Ray Williams, WR, Clemson
1987 no recipient
1988 Jerry Mays, TB, Georgia Tech
1989 Michael Anderson, RB, Maryland
1990 Marc Mays, WR, Duke
1991 Scott Adell, T,  NC State
1992 Dan Footman, DE, Florida State
        Randy Cuthbert, TB,  Duke
1993 Scott Youmans, DL, Duke
1994 Chris Harrison, T, Virginia
1995 Warren Forney, DT, Clemson
1996 John Lewis, RB, Wake Forest
1997 Sam Cowart, LB, Florida State
1998 Anthony Poindexter, DB, Virginia
        Corey Simon, DT, Florida State
1999 Chris Weinke, QB,  Florida State
2000 Ed Wilder, FB, Georgia Tech
2001 Matt Crawford, T, Maryland
2002 Anquan Boldin, WR, Florida State
2003 Kevin Bailey, OL, Virginia
2004 Frank Gore, RB, Miami
2005 Ryan Best, S, Virginia
2006 Glenn Sharpe, Miami
2007 Matt Robinson, DE, Wake Forest
2008 Robert Quinn, DE, North Carolina
2009 Toney Baker, RB, NC State
2010 Mark Herzlich, LB, Boston College,
        Nate Irving, LB, NC State
2011 Giovani Bernard, RB, North Carolina
2012 Shayon Green, DE, Miami
        Chris Thompson, RB, Florida State
2013 Robert Godhigh, RB, Georgia Tech
2014 Duke Johnson, RB, Miami
2015 Hunter Knigthon, OL, Miami
2016 James Conner, RB, Pitt