Vanderbilt TE sidelined as he undergoes treatments for melanoma

Turner Cockrell is a redshirt sophomore for the Commodores. (Getty)

Vanderbilt tight end Turner Cockrell spent Week 1 watching the Commodores beat Middle Tennessee State. As Vandy prepares for Week 2, he’s in Houston for his cancer treatments.

Cockrell is at the MD Anderson Cancer Center for treatments for melanoma. He was diagnosed with cancer late in the 2017 season and, per Vanderbilt’s website, scans this summer showed more cancerous growths on his lungs.

Cockrell’s priorities have shifted since he entered the 2017 season as a second-year tight end with the Commodores. That fall, he noticed two lumps on the right side of his neck, which he eventually had biopsied in late October. In mid-November, doctors officially diagnosed Cockrell with melanoma, with the cancer found in several lymph nodes from his ear to his collarbone.

“Prior to the diagnosis, my friends were joking like, ‘That’s cancer, you better get it checked out,'” Cockrell said. “I was like, nah, that couldn’t be it. When we got the official diagnosis, it took me by surprise. But having prior knowledge of cancer and treatment, I wasn’t terribly worried. I was obviously taken aback, but nothing I was too worried about right off the bat.”

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Cockrell participated in offseason workouts

He had hopes of rejoining the team for the 2018 season after his cancer treatments in early 2018. When his radiation concluded in early February, Cockrell got back into the swing of things during the team’s workout program.

But routine scans over the summer showed the cancer had spread, necessitating the trip to MD Anderson on Friday.

This Friday, Cockrell will undergo the first step in using tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes in Houston. The procedure will harvest cells from Cockrell’s body as doctors grow them externally before re-injecting them in six-to-eight weeks. The treatment prepares cells to more effectively attack cancerous cells.

He watched the Week 1 win over Middle Tennessee from coach Derek Mason’s suite at Vanderbilt Stadium.

Cockrell isn’t the only Power Five player who has dealt with cancer recently. Syracuse QB Rex Culpepper was diagnosed with testicular cancer in the spring and was deemed cancer-free earlier in the summer. We’ve got our fingers crossed that Cockrell will receive the same great news in the near future.

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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.

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