Overflow crowd attends Turner Cockrell service

Mason among those to eulogize Vanderbilt student-athlete.

Mason among those to eulogize Vanderbilt student-athlete.

KENNESAW, Ga. – Vanderbilt head coach Derek Mason told an overflow audience attending memorial services for Commodore student-athlete Turner Cockrell on Monday that the Georgia native never stopped positively impacting his family, friends and teammates.

“During the toughest of times, you still managed to create a brotherhood and have an impact on us all,” Mason said. “You made us better men and women, better coaches and better people. Your spirit of kindness and humility drew us to you and we will never let your memory be forgotten.”

Cockrell, a native of Acworth, Ga., who in 2015 helped Allatoona High School to its first state championship before signing a scholarship with Vanderbilt, was eulogized Monday as a friend to all he met, a driven young man who cared more for team achievements than personal goals. Cockrell passed away at home on Nov. 29, surrounded by family members after a year-long fight with cancer.

The audience was the largest ever assembled at the NorthStar Church in Kennesaw, Ga. Officiating pastor Mike Linch asked those in attendance to look around the auditorium. “We are here today because Turner Cockrell’s smile, infectious attitude and passion for life touched all of our lives.”

The Commodores were represented by a 163-person contingent, including all of Cockrell’s football teammates, Mason and his coaching staff, and administrators led by Vanderbilt athletics director David Williams II. Southeastern Conference commissioner Greg Sankey was also in attendance to remember Cockrell.

Mason was joined by Lance Brown, who mentors many Vanderbilt student-athletes through WhoUWith Ministries. Brown told of visiting with Mason one day before Vanderbilt and Tennessee were to play.

“We’re going. We going to see Turner now,” Brown recalled Mason’s words. When they arrived at the Cockrell residence, Turner only wanted to know how they were doing. “That’s Turner,” Brown said.

It was the last visit with Cockrell for both men.

“I miss you Turner,” Mason said. “The strength of your journey and your relentless pursuit of life inspires us to run the race that we’re given and to finish strong.”

Turner is survived by his parents, Randy and Noelle; a brother, Parker, and a sister, Katheryn, all of Acworth; maternal grandmother, Irene Noell Turner of Galax, Virginia; paternal grandparents, James and Shirley Cockrell of Woodstock, Virginia; and numerous extended relatives.

The Cockrell family requests that donations be made to the Vanderbilt Ingram Cancer Center or the V Foundation for Cancer Research.

In addition, Vanderbilt fans can purchase tickets to the Academy Sports + Outdoors Texas Bowl that will be donated to families of patients at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. Cockrell received specialized treatment at the Houston facility last September.