Vanderbilt student-athlete Turner Cockrell dies after long battle with cancer

Photo Courtesy of Vanderbilt Athletics (

Vanderbilt student-athlete Turner Cockrell died on Thursday after a long battle with cancer. He was 21 years old.

Cockrell, a tight end on the Vanderbilt Commodore football team, was a Medicine, Health, and Society major from Acworth, Georgia.

Today, Head Coach Derek Mason said in a statement, “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. 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 attended Vanderbilt’s home opening win against Middle Tennessee State University before continuing his treatment. After the game,  Mason awarded him the game ball.

According to, Mason said, “I want to be able to give the game ball to Turner CockrellTurner leaves tomorrow. He’s heading down to Houston. He’s going to take care of some business. He’s going to win, just like we’re winning for him. Every day, there won’t be a day that goes by that we don’t honor Turner Cockrell.”

Since his diagnosis, the Vanderbilt Football team has featured Cockrell’s number 82 patched onto their uniforms.

In the fall of 2017, Cockrell was first diagnosed with cancer in his lymph nodes. He received surgery and treatment that winter, but over the summer, routine scans revealed that the cancer had spread to his lungs. He then traveled to Houston to continue his battle at The University of Texas’ MD Anderson Cancer Center.

On November 29th, 2018 at 6:01 PM, Vanderbilt’s Dean of Students Office broke the news to the student body over email.

Cockrell is survived by his parents, Randy and Noelle, and his two siblings Parker and Katheryn. We would like to reiterate the school’s message that there will be a support session for students tomorrow afternoon, Friday, November 30, from 1 to 4 p.m., in the Lupton Lounge of Branscomb Hall.

Vanderbilt is coordinating a memorial for Cockrell. We will share the details once we receive further information.

“Every day, there won’t be a day that goes by that we don’t honor Turner Cockrell.”

Previous articleCaviar & Bananas to accept Commodore Card starting Nov. 30
Next articleSexual Health at Vandy: Hook up culture
Simon Gibbs, Senior Writer
Simon Gibbs (‘21) is a senior writer for the sports section of the Vanderbilt Hustler. He is planning on majoring in Human and Organizational Development in Peabody College, with minors in Business and Communication Studies. Simon had written pieces for the sports section of his high school newspaper, the Riverdale Review, before arriving at Vanderbilt. When he's not writing articles or covering games, you can find Simon watching his hometown New York Mets, waiting for that next ring.