When Andre Jenkins was undergoing treatment for leukemia, there was one person the 19-year old from Savannah, Georgia looked to for inspiration.
Jenkins thought if Conner could not just battle leukemia, but battle back from it and become a starting running back in the NFL, then he could do it as well.
There were times it was trying, times he didn’t want to keep fighting, but when those moments would creep in, it would be Conner who would be his inspiration.
On Friday, Jenkins met the person who has inspired him through his treatment when he was the guest of the Steelers and Make-A-Wish at practice.
“It was amazing. Words can’t even describe it,” said Jenkins. “I thought I was dreaming for a minute.
“It helped me with everything. He really inspired me. Having the same type of cancer, going through the same thing, it was amazing.
“Just meeting him changed everything. He gave me inspiration when I went through chemo. I was watching television and he popped up. He was telling his story. For my Make-A-Wish I just wanted to meet him, shake his hand and tell him thank you.”
When Conner learned of the way he helped Jenkins, you could see he was genuinely touched. He talked to him on the field, gave him his gloves, then took him in the team’s weight room where the two had a heart-to-heart talk. He then walked him around the office some, and honestly, changed his life.
“He said just keep pushing on through,” said Jenkins. “He told me they can’t hold us down for long. I really liked that. I am surprised I didn’t cry. My dad did. Chemo was really hard. My last month of chemo, it was hard. It was stressful. My dad cried. He said he just wanted to tell him thank you. Seeing him on television and hearing his story, it just made me want to push a little harder.”
Jenkins will also go to Monday night’s game against the Miami Dolphins at Heinz Field, along with his father, cheering on Conner and his teammates. And his father might even shed a few more tears then because he knows what Conner has meant to his son’s life, and his life.
“It was a life-changing experience for me,” said his father, also Andre Jenkins. “I was able to let them know it meant something to my son, and how much they were a part of his life, even though they weren’t there through the whole journey.
“I spoke to the owner (Art Rooney II) and the general manager (Kevin Colbert) and I thanked them for trusting in their coaching staff to trust the players to put them on the field no matter what adversity they have had to go through in life. That he trusted James enough to give him the opportunity to play on this team. Without that, I don’t know if my son would be here right now.”
The Steelers grant a wish of a young fan from Savannah, GA