James Conner: Aaron Donald text 'my motivation' to make Pro Bowl

PITTSBURGH -- Pittsburgh Steelers running back James Conner celebrated his first Pro Bowl nod on social media by posting a 2015 text from Aaron Donald, his former teammate at Pitt who encouraged him through his cancer fight.

Donald, a Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle who's largely considered the NFL's best defensive player, spoke a Pro Bowl into existence for Conner, who reflected on that special message from his locker.

"It was awesome for that to come to reality," said Conner after Wednesday's practice, in which he did not participate while recovering from a high ankle sprain. "That was a screenshot from 2015, that was my motivation. I was talking to him about it last night. (Steelers defensive end) Cam Heyward sent me a text. I just shared the one from Aaron Donald because he said Pro Bowl in it. Since the Pro Bowl came out. So many people reached out. I had that screenshot for a couple of years now."

Conner overcame Hodgkin's Lymphoma in time to play the 2016 season at Pitt and get selected by the Steelers in the third round of the 2017 draft. He has 909 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns in 12 games as Le'Veon Bell's primary replacement.

Now, he likes the sound of James Conner, Pro Bowler.

"It’s such a blessing. Came a long way. Huge honor," Conner said. "Happy I’ve got some of my teammates with me. Hopefully we’re in a better bowl. But it’s an honor, though."

Three of Conner's linemen -- center Maurkice Pouncey, guard David DeCastro and tackle Alejandro Villanueva -- also made the Pro Bowl, which makes Conner happy.

"Together we eat," Conner said.