Duke's Cockrell awaits NFL call: 'I've done all I can'
Playing in a high school state championship game for Charlotte Latin in 2008, Ross Cockrell’s chances of playing in the NFL seemed remote when he hit the field in pain with a serious knee injury.
His first thought was that he wouldn’t be able to finish the game. He later wondered if his Duke football scholarship was in jeopardy.
“For days and weeks and months after that,” Cockrell said, “I didn’t think about the NFL at all. My focus was to get to college and play football again.”
Duke honored his scholarship, Cockrell had reconstructive knee surgery at Duke Hospital and he sat out 2009. He returned to the field in 2010, grabbed a starting cornerback job for the Blue Devils and never let it go.
Having been honored twice as an all-ACC player, Cockrell has come all the way back and his NFL time is drawing near. He’s projected to be selected anywhere from the third to the sixth round in this week’s NFL Draft.
The second and third rounds will be held tonight, with rounds four through seven Saturday.
Since Duke’s season ended with a record-setting 10-4 record, Cockrell performed well at the East-West Shrine All-Star Game, the NFL Scouting Combine and at Duke’s pro day.
He traveled to Pittsburgh and Buffalo for individual workouts with those NFL teams. Now he waits to learn where his career will continue.
“For me, I’m at peace,” Cockrell said. “I’ve done everything I can possibly do. I played five years of college football, started four. I did everything to the best of my ability. My parents are probably stressing a little more. That takes pressure off of me. I’ll let them stress. I’m at peace.”
Cockrell spent a couple of days in New York City earlier this week but has returned home to Waxhaw, outside Charlotte, to monitor the draft. On Wednesday night, he attended an NFL Players Association dinner in New York. Of the 40 draft prospects in attendance, 30 of them were players expected to go in the first round who were invited to attend the draft Thursday night.
Cockrell was among 10 other players the NFLPA invited to the dinner.
“It was great getting to meet new people,” Cockrell said. “It was a lot of fun.”
Duke coach David Cutcliffe always believed in Cockrell’s athletic ability. He also is sold on Cockrell as a person, calling him the greatest leader as a player that he’s ever coached.
“He’s different,” Cutcliffe said. “He’s special.”
And he’s still down to earth. After being at that dinner with all those college football stars and NFLPA brass, Cockrell plans has mundane plans, by comparison, for Saturday.
He’ll be attending a high school track meet.
“My (younger) sisters have a big track meet this weekend,” Cockrell said. “That will take my mind off of everything going on. I’ll be cheering them on.”