RALEIGH – Robert Cockrell, a retired salesman from Dana, claimed the largest Mega Millions prize in Henderson County history on Monday. He plans to use the $1 million prize he won in the Jan. 29 drawing to pay off his mortgage. By playing a series of family birthdates on his $2 Megaplier ticket, he matched all five white balls but not the yellow Mega Ball and beat odds of 1 in 3.9 million.

Cockrell was at home watching the drawing on television when he learned of his big win.

“I always say that you can’t win unless you get the first number,” Cockrell said. “When the first number came up, I said ‘Got that one.’ Then I said it four more times. I thought we had won $250,000, but then we found out it was a million dollars when we checked the website. I know we watched the drawing three more times after that, thinking it couldn’t be real. This is all so exciting.”

Cockrell plans to use a portion of his winnings, worth $680,000 after taxes were withheld, to help his family. He purchased his lucky ticket at the Dana Food Center on Dana Road in Dana.

“This may have set us into a position that we don’t have to worry about the future anymore,” Cockrell added. “It really feels great and it couldn’t have come at a better time.”

Tonight’s Mega Millions jackpot is an estimated $19 million if taken as an annuity or $14 million if taken as a lump sum. Winners have 180 days from the draw date to claim their prize.

Ticket sales for games such as Mega Millions have enabled the lottery to raise more than $2.6 billion for education initiatives statewide. Since the lottery began through June 30, 2012, Henderson County education programs received more than $18.9 million in lottery funds. By law, those funds pay for teachers’ salaries in grades K-3, school construction, prekindergarten programs for at-risk four-year-olds, and need-based college scholarships and financial aid.