Vanderbilt's Turner Cockrell passes away after battle with cancer

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NASHVILLE, Tennessee -- 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."