NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Former Vanderbilt football student-athlete Cody Markel has been named the 2020 SEC Brad Davis Community Service Leader of the Year.
Markel, a recent graduate from Madison, Wisconsin, on Thursday became Vanderbilt’s first male student-athlete to receive the Brad Davis Award. Two former female student-athletes – golfer Andrea Bullock (1997) and lacrosse’s Brooke Shinaberry (2008) – previously received the honor.
A committee of faculty athletic representatives from SEC universities chose Markel and female recipient Ann Elizabeth Tebow of Texas A&M to each receive a $10,000 postgraduate scholarship, provided by the SEC.
“Cody epitomizes the complete SEC student-athlete experience by making the world a better place with his dedication to the community and the classroom,” SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said. “I congratulate Cody, his family and Vanderbilt University on this prestigious recognition.”
Markel earned national attention last year after creating Turner’s Heroes, a non-profit organization dedicated to the memory of Vanderbilt classmate and fellow tight end Turner Cockrell. Turner, then a Vanderbilt junior, passed away in December 2018 after a lengthy fight against melanoma. Turner’s Heroes has successfully funded a $50,000 discovery grant for pediatric cancer research at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt.
Through Turner’s Heroes, Markel and many of his Commodore teammates also have worked to uplift the spirits of pediatric cancer patients and aid their families by staging superhero-themed activities at treatment centers.
Vanderbilt Interim Chancellor and Provost Susan R. Wente and Vice Chancellor for Athletics and University Affairs and Athletic Director Candice Lee recognized Markel for his dedication to Cockrell’s legacy.
“I am so pleased the Southeastern Conference is recognizing Vanderbilt student-athlete Cody Markel with the Brad Davis Award,” Wente said. “Cody’s efforts to honor the memory of teammate Turner Cockrell have been a tremendous source of pride for the Vanderbilt community. His pursuit of excellence as a teammate, leader and student-athlete exemplify the Vanderbilt Way of excellence on and off the field.”
“It’s truly remarkable that, even beyond his dedication to football and the classroom, Cody worked so diligently to create a non-profit in Turner’s memory,” Lee said. “The joy he brought to so many kids and families at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital and the funds he raised for pediatric cancer research are rewards in their own right, but this recognition from the SEC is so well deserved. He has always used his platform to make a difference for others.
“I can’t wait to see how he does it in the future.”
With Markel’s guidance, Turner’s Heroes has raised more than $110,000. More than half of that – $70,000 – was raised during an 82-hour fundraising drive last September centered around Vanderbilt’s home football game against LSU.
The money fully funded Turner’s Heroes’ first discovery grant for pediatric cancer research at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital. Turner’s Heroes also staged events for young patients at Vanderbilt Children’s and American Family Children’s Hospital in Madison, Wisconsin. Similar events were held at Cockrell’s high school alma mater, Allatoona High School near Atlanta.
Markel is also establishing a Turner’s Heroes Kids Cancer Endowment Fund at the Wisconsin hospital to support pediatric cancer research efforts and aid young cancer patients’ families.
Vanderbilt football head coach Derek Mason praised his former tight end, who played in 23 career games as a non-scholarship member of the team.
“Cody Markel is the real deal, just a tremendous representative of the Vanderbilt football team who has a very bright future ahead of him,” Mason said. “What Cody has done over the last 18 months to honor Turner Cockrell is an incredible testament to his character. He makes all of us extremely proud.”
The Brad Davis Award is the third major accolade Markel’s earned in the 2019-20 academic year. In April, he received the Jim Robins Award and Community Service Award at Vanderbilt Athletics’ annual student-athlete recognition banquet. The National Football Foundation’s Middle Tennessee chapter presented him with the C.R. Bickerstaff/Bill Pace University Scholar-Athlete of the Year Award in February.
Previously, Markel was nominated for the NFF’s Campbell Award, the Senior CLASS Award and the Allstate-American Football Coaches Association FBS Good Works Team.
Markel was active in community service through his Vanderbilt studies. Prior to forming Turner’s Heroes, he served as captain of the football team’s 2018 Dance Marathon effort that raised more than $10,000 for the children’s hospital on campus. Additionally, Markel contributed as a volunteer at Alive Hospice in Nashville.
Markel, a six-time dean’s list recipient, earned a bachelor’s degree in political science and medicine, health and society in December. His long-term plans include law school.