NASHVILLE – Vanderbilt student-athlete Turner Cockrell passed away on Thursday after a long battle with cancer. He was 21.
Cockrell, a third-year tight end on the Commodores’ football team, was diagnosed with melanoma in his lymph nodes in fall of 2017. Despite surgery and treatment that winter, scans determined that the cancer had spread to Cockrell’s lungs last summer.
Cockrell is survived by his parents, Randy and Noelle, and two siblings, brother Parker and sister Katheryn.
“My heart is broken for Randy, Noelle and the Cockrell family, for all of Turner’s teammates, and for all who came in contact with Turner,” Vanderbilt head football coach Derek Mason said. “Turner had a wonderful spirit and fought an incredible fight. He was a Vanderbilt Man through and through, and he will always be remembered here.”
Cockrell was a medicine, health and society major in Vanderbilt’s College of Arts & Science.
An Acworth, Georgia, native, Cockrell was a third-year tight end who bolstered Vanderbilt’s scout team during his first two seasons on campus. He missed the entire 2018 campaign while undergoing treatment at the University of Texas’ MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.
Prior to his Commodore career, Cockrell was a two-year starter at Allatoona (Ga.) High, which he led to a 14-1 season and the 5A state championship in 2015, the first state title in program history. Cockrell averaged 25.3 yards on 13 catches as a senior tight end, chipping in three touchdowns. He was a first-team all-state honoree during his final prep campaign.
This fall, Mason and the Commodores dedicated much of their season to Cockrell during his battle with melanoma. Cockrell sat with Mason’s family in the coaches’ suite during Vanderbilt’s season-opening win over Middle Tennessee on Sept. 1. After the game, Mason delivered the game ball to Cockrell, who was celebrated by his teammates. The Dores also wore helmet stickers with Cockrell’s No. 82 this season.
Following Vanderbilt’s win over Tennessee in the regular season finale on Nov. 24, Mason opened his press conference with a shout-out to Cockrell and his family.
“I love you, my man,” Mason said. “I love you, Randy, Noelle, and the family. I miss you.”
Statement from David Williams, Vice Chancellor for Athletics University Affairs and Athletics Director
While all of us are experiencing sorrow as we mourn the passing of our brother, Turner Cockrell, we would like to remember Turner by celebrating his life and expressing our love for him. In that regard, the athletic department will be placing wreaths in honor of, and as a memorial to, Turner Cockrell.
One wreath will be placed by The Frist Family Gate (Gate 2) of Vanderbilt Stadium at the corner of Jess Neely Drive and Natchez Trace; while a second wreath will be placed at the anchor display located outside of the McGugin Athletic Center.
We welcome and encourage members of the Vanderbilt family and Nashville community to visit the memorial displays, say a prayer, leave a flower or note, or express love in a moment of silence for Turner Cockrell.