Remembering Turner Cockrell, One Smile At A Time
Turner Cockrell was an outstanding high school football and lacrosse player at Allatoona High School in Acworth, Georgia. As a tight end, he averaged 25.3 yards on 13 receptions and scored three touchdowns as a senior. Cockrell set a school record with a 93-yard touchdown reception in state semifinals. During his senior year, he earned first-team All-State from sportswriters and All-Cobb County honors. According to his Vanderbilt football bio, his dad played linebacker for four years at Virginia Tech, as well as a year in the World Football League, so I think it is safe to say that Turner was born with the love of football in his heart.
Turner was a student-athlete during the prime of his life. He was a medicine, health, and society major in Vanderbilt’s College of Arts & Science. Cockrell was also a tight end on the football team. Turner Cockrell was also diagnosed with melanoma in his lymph nodes in the winter of 2017. He underwent surgery and treatment last year at M.D. Anderson in Houston, Texas. And this past summer, his scans revealed that cancer had taken over his lungs. He still remained positive, and his irresistible spirit was a driving force of motivation for the 2018 Vandy football team.
Unfortunately, Turner lost his battle on November 29th at the young age of 21. He is survived by his parents, Randy and Noelle Cockrell, his brother, Parker, and sister, Katheryn. As well as a multitude of friends and supporters.
“Turner had a wonderful spirit and fought an incredible fight.”
I never got the privilege of interviewing Turner. Yet, everyone, I have heard talk about him has mentioned his smile. The most persistent comment I heard was “man, I loved that kid, he was always smiling…”
But I have the next best thing: his brothers in arms on the football team. These are their stories of Turner. And as long as these stories are told, Turner will live on in our hearts and on the field.
Brandon Riley and Raleigh Webb were high school teammates of Turner’s and current student-athletes at The Citadel. During their game on November 29th, Riley wore Turner’s number as he played to honor his friend. Riley ran for a touchdown as well as passed for one, while Webb had a 77-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. The Citadel beat Charleston Southern 43-14.
No Prom Date Needed
What a moment.
The Citadel's Brandon Rainey scored a TD wearing No. 82 to honor his former HS teammate and Vanderbilt TE Turner Cockrell, who passed away at age 21. pic.twitter.com/NYRf7MTXMh
— ESPN CollegeFootball (@ESPNCFB) November 30, 2018
The Light Many People Needed
“Turner seemed to always just exude a constant happiness and great attitude any time him and I would interact. With this being said, my favorite memory of Turner is the way we consistently used to greet each other when we would see each other. Any time Turner and I crossed paths, whether it was on the field, in the locker room, in the hallways of the athletic facilities, or on campus between classes, I would always exclaim upon seeing him: “Brother Turner!” Turner would always smile back and, with even more energy and enthusiasm, reply: “Brother Ellis!” This would happen every time we saw each other, no matter where it was, and both of us would smile and laugh every single time. We found it to be a hilarious joke between us two.
But as I now think back on it, although this became a humorous tradition anytime we encountered one another, we were actually conveying a deeper message to one another without intending to or without even realizing it. This message was that I would always have a brother in Turner and that he would always have a brother in me. Although I was not one of Turner’s closest friends, the brotherhood that he maintained with myself as well as with all of his teammates was something that was more than evident. His love and positivity were amazingly contagious, especially on our team. I’m going to miss this about Turner Cockrell, and I want him to know that, as we continuously used to declare to one another lightheartedly, he will truly always have a brother in me. Love you, “Brother Turner!” – Trey Ellis
A Smile For Everyone
A smile can change the world or at the very least someone’s day. Turner Cockrell had a contagious smile, he had a smile for everyone, he was the light that people needed. As long as his stories are told, he will continue to live on in the hearts of his friends, coaches, and family.
Turner James Cockrell Sept. 30, 1997-Nov. 29, 2018
Vanderbilt football is giving you an opportunity to purchase tickets in honor of Turner. The bowl game is in Houston, where Turner underwent cancer treatment. In honor of Turner Cockrell, fans can purchase
@TexasBowl tickets to be donated to MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. Tickets will be donated directly to the doctors, nurses and hospital staff who helped treat Turner, and other families currently undergoing treatment.
Tickets may be purchased HERE using the code VUBOWLGIVE.
Please note that you will not receive the tickets, as they will be donated directly to families at MD Anderson.