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The Best Draft Pick Ever

By BJ Bennett
SouthernPigskin.com
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James Conner to the Steelers, more than any other pick in draft history, is 100% football fate.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are a franchise known for toughness and grit. An organization with six world championships, the Steelers have won with an unwavering commitment and resolve. Fittingly, the Steelers just drafted college football's toughest player; they didn't have to look far to find him.

Running back James Conner, formerly a star with the Pittsburgh Panthers, won't even have to change stadiums as he moves onto the next level. He won't have to change his attitude, either. At 6'1'', 233 pounds, Conner is a powerful downhill rusher whose black-and-blue style falls in right line with the black-and-gold brand. Close your eyes and imagine a Pittsburgh Steeler and he looks and plays like the team's recent third round NFL Draft pick. 

Dedication, for Conner, is measured more than just ten yards at a time. During his junior season, Conner was diagnosed with cancer in the form of Hodgkin's Lymphoma. Though the news shook the sports world, he stood stoic and strong. Conner vowed to play football again, actually practicing with his teammates during chemotherapy treatments. Determination became inspiration, as Conner emerged as a very real hero for many; his muscles powered a movement.

In late May of last summer, Conner announced that he was cancer-free.

Off the field, Conner is undefeated. On the field, he is damn good, too. Conner is the ACC's all-time leader in rushing touchdowns with 52. His 2014 season, 1,765 yards and 26 scores, is one of the most-productive efforts in league history. This past fall, Conner, back from Hodgkin's Lymphoma, and also a torn MCL, ran for 1,092 yards and 16 touchdowns. Additionally, he developed into a consistent pass-catcher with 21 receptions for 302 yards and four touchdowns.

A 43-42 upset victory over eventual-national champion Clemson was a fitting showcase for Conner. He ran for 132 yards, scored a critical late-fourth quarter touchdown on a 20-yard burst and reached the endzone on a 46-yard reception in giving the Tigers their lone loss of the season. It was one of the games of the year in college football, with Conner, triumphant, right in the middle.

Conner heads to the NFL as an All-American, a record-holder and story everyone should know.

A hard-nosed Erie-native who starred for the Panthers, the fit could not be more perfect. This pick, more than any other in draft history, is 100% football fate. Conner has earned it every step of the way. Having also played defensive line at McDowell High School, he will only add to Pittsburgh's stalwart legacy and line.

Remarkably, Conner has already stepped on the turf at Heinz Field as a survivor. Next, he will do so as a Steeler.

BJ Bennett - B.J. Bennett is SouthernPigskin.com's founder and publisher. He is the co-host of "Three & Out" with Matt Osborne and Kevin Thomas on the Southern Pigskin Radio Network and is the sports director for multiple ESPN Radio affiliates based throughout southeast Georgia. @BJBennettSports