Cockerton entering N.C. State Hall of Fame recalls Wolfpack’s success in lacrosse

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RALEIGH, N.C. – Legendary international lacrosse player and N.C. State Wolfpack four-time All-American Stan Cockerton raised his arms and hands high, flashing the Wolfpack sign, and showed his appreciation for his alma mater when he was inducted into the school’s Athletic Hall of Fame at Reynolds Coliseum on Friday.

Along with the 1974 NCAA men’s basketball team, football legend Dick Christy, women’s basketball standout Linda Paige, multi-sport star Dave Robertson, and swimming and diving coach Don Easterling, Cockerton officially took his place in the annals of N.C. State athletics history.

The newly revealed Hall of Fame emerged as the sparkling diamond created as part of the facility’s recently completed 35-million dollar renovation.

The night officially signaled the end of a 16-month process that put an updated look and features into the historic building, and officially dedicated and introduced displays highlighting this year’s class as well as three previous inducted from 2012 through 2014.

The atmosphere in the facility, with approximately 1,300 in attendance – composed of former athletes, alumni, faculty and staff, and current students alike – teemed with pride in revisiting and learning about the school’s rich sports legacies.

Known for past success regionally and nationally in football and basketball, on this night, many more learned what Cockerton, from Oshawa, Ontario, did to put N.C. State in the intercollegiate lacrosse hierarchy when the school sponsored a varsity program from 1973-1982.

Having only traveled back to campus a few times since playing his last collegiate game 35 years ago, he was amazed at what it looked like now, and was impressed at seeing his display in the Hall.

“We spent all morning walking around campus,” a smiling Cockerton said.

“The changes are beautiful – the trees are bigger. A lot of it looked the same, and there was other stuff that was totally new, and other stuff I’m not sure was here or not.”

He entered the building and recalled the great times he had leading four N.C. State lacrosse teams to Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) and National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) prominence from 1977-1980.

“The display is unbelievable – everything is,” he continued.

“N.C. State gave me the education, and the life experiences to move on. I wouldn’t be where I am now without N.C. State and the lessons that I learned here; from the institution, our players, especially our coach, Charlie Patch. They’re all inspirations to me.”

As a history major, Cockerton took a cellar-dwelling Wolfpack team to the upper echelon of the ACC and put the program on the map.

His accomplishments included topping the N.C. State scoring list in goals per game for all four years of his collegiate career; leading the ACC in total points twice, and leading the conference in total goals scored and points per game three times.

Following a dramatic and much heralded title win for Canada with his overtime game-winning goal over the United States at the 1978 Federation of International Lacrosse (FIL)  World Championship in England, Cockerton posted 51 goals and 25 assists, and led N.C. State to it first-ever and only NCAA postseason appearance in 1979.

“Whenever I hit the floor, whenever I hit the field, I would just be in the moment,” Cockerton said during a prerecorded video that played during his induction.

“Everything else would just be out of my mind. I just loved playing lacrosse, and I was just totally focused.”

That season highlighted the Wolfpack’s highest-ever finish ever – ending with an 8-4 record overall, and finishing 2-2 in the ACC.

It was talent, skill, and a blue collar work ethic that made the Wolfpack’s seasons so successful back then.

“We brought a confidence, probably a bit of a cockiness to the team,” Cockerton said.

“We were unranked when we came. We were players from all over the place. We thought we could win. Great captains like Duke Whelan, Charlie (Patch) as our coach – right from the start, we tried to instill that we could win. My first two years at N.C. State – special teammates, special coaching – we were successful because all 30, all 40 players were just as important. I was the one getting accolades. Everybody was working hard to get me the ball so I could score a goal. Just a great, great group of people all working on the same page, and we were lucky enough to have success.”

By the time Cockerton wrapped up his career in Raleigh, he had set a lofty standard that took 28 years to top as he became the NCAA’s all-time goal scoring leader with 193 goals.

Former Duke Blue Devils standout and fellow Canadian Zack Greer topped it in 2008, before another Blue Devil, Max Quinzani, finished with 199 goals in 2010, and nudged Cockerton to his current spot, third overall in NCAA scoring history.

Compared to Greer, who played 67 career games, and Quinzani who played 78, Cockerton still owns the NCAA record for goals per game – 4.39 – as he recorded all his goals in just 44 games played.

Such an illustrious career at N.C. State earned him the honor of having his No. 15 retired in 1982, the fourth-ever athlete to receive that distinction in school history.

While the Wolfpack didn’t play a season past 1982 when the program was discontinued – a story for another day – Cockerton’s feats in collegiate field lacrosse, along with his Canadian Junior/Senior and pro box lacrosse accomplishments, eventually landed him in the Ontario Lacrosse Hall of Fame in 1997, the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame in 2003, and the National (U.S.) Lacrosse Hall of Fame in 2014.

“Any player in any sport, the pinnacle is to go into a hall of fame,” Cockerton said.

“With N.C. State’s long athletic history, it’s pretty amazing actually.”

“He earned it – he was a fantastic ball player”, former head coach Charlie Patch stated as the video played on.

“He earned it with the four years he put in here. Overall, we’re tremendously proud of him.”

As distinctive as other inductions were, entering the N.C. State Hall of Fame highlighted and capped off a point in Cockerton’s life from which his future as a leader in the game internationally was forged from.

Following graduation, he returned to work as the program coordinator for the Ontario Lacrosse Association (OLA) and eventually he earned the title of executive director – one he holds to this day.

He’s since added the title of president of the FIL to his resume, and is proud of growing the game around the world to include 55 participating countries.

Quite an accomplishment considering there were only four competing internationally – Canada, United States, England, and Australia – when he played in 1978 and 1982.

It wasn’t until 1990 when he played his third and final international tournament that the fifth team, Iroquois Nation, entered the competition which now boasts 38 countries in different divisions of play.

As he now cultivates the growth of the international game, he looks back on how his trip with Team Canada brought him further south than he originally expected.

He could have gone to Cornell or Johns Hopkins back then, but he chose N.C. State and the challenge of building a program.

He accomplished that and was deservedly recognized for it.

As chancellor Randy Woodson lay the medal around his neck with athletic director Debbie Yow looking on, Cockerton raised his arms, reliving the feeling of making the Wolfpack proud.

They were.

Former teammates and friends in the crowd waived posters of him to go along with the standing ovation everyone else joined in with.

For a night, lacrosse at N.C. State was back with Cockerton at the forefront.

Although it was all about celebrating the past, he hoped that someday he would have reason to bask in a similar glory in the future.

“I just think we built an exciting a very good reputation at N.C. State – an exciting product,” Cockerton concluded.

“We were on the brink of winning. Coming from good recruiting areas who knows what we could do (back then). ACC lacrosse is the best lacrosse – it was then, it is now. To me, it’s time to get men’s and women’s lacrosse back here. Hopefully, I’m not the only lacrosse player (in the Hall of Fame), and that at some point in the future, lacrosse will be back at N.C. State. I just hope I’m around to see it.”