CHARLOTTE — Ross Cockrell is coming home to play for the Carolina Panthers.
The former Charlotte Latin and Duke University football star signed with the Panthers on March 23 after spending last season with the New York Giants. Cockrell played for two seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers (2015-2016) and he played his rookie season in 2014 for the Buffalo Bills after being drafted in the fourth round.
According to a tweet from Cockrell’s agent at Reign Sports Management, the defensive back signed a two-year, $6.8 million deal with the Panthers.
Cockrell, 26, was a bright spot toward the end of the 2017 season for a Giants secondary that was plagued with injuries and disciplinary issues. He played in all 16 games, starting in nine, and finished with three interceptions and 49 combined tackles.
Cockrell’s recruiting profile his senior season in 2008 at Latin had the defensive back listed at 6-foot, 170 pounds. He is listed at 190 pounds on the Panthers’ roster.
At Latin, Cockrell was two-time All-Conference and All-State selection. Cockrell had 29 catches for 459 yards and 11 touchdowns on the offensive side of the football and he had 34 tackles and three interceptions on defense to help lead Latin to the state championship game his senior year.
“One of his best attributes, besides the fact that he could run like crazy, he had great football skills, he had great catching skills,” said former Latin football coach Larry McNulty, who coached Cockrell at the school. “He has a natural movement to the ball. He was so thin and slight that we kept him on our jayvee team for quite a while. He played receiver and defensive back.”
Cockrell also ran track and played basketball at Latin and McNulty said one thing that stands out about Cockrell is his versatility. McNulty currently coaches the track team at Latin.
“Ross was a state champion in track and field in the 100 meters, a state champion in the 400 and he was on a state champion relay team,” McNulty said. “He was also an outstanding basketball player.”
Cockrell was a two-time first-team All-ACC selection at Duke and he was an Honorable Mention All-American his junior season. He was a four-time Academic All-ACC Selection at the school.
Cockrell holds the school record for career pass breakups at Duke with 42 and his 12 career interceptions is sixth best all-time at the school.
Cockrell, who signed early with Duke, tore his ACL during the state championship game his senior season and red-shirted his freshman season at Duke.
McNulty said he is excited that Cockrell is coming back home to play for the Panthers and he said his former player will be a success once his football playing days are over. Cockrell’s parents, Kieth and Serena, live in Waxhaw.
“Ross is a great kid from a super family,” McNulty said. “Ross always comes to the school and visits when he is in town. He is a very smart kid. When his football career is over, who knows what he will be doing …. a lawyer, a doctor. He will use his intelligence.”