Zaevion Dobson earned the “Arthur Ashe Award” at the 2016 ESPYs for the incredible act of courage and heroism that took his life.
He was 15 years old, a Fulton Football team player and a mentor to his peers. According to an ESPN Documentary, Dobson grew up in Lonsdale and lived with his mom and two brothers, Markastin (oldest) and Zach. Zach and Dobson were only a year apart and were best friends. They did everything together.
“When we were little, we used to ride bikes. We used to go to the creek a lot. Catch salamanders, play hide-and-go-seek and stuff…He would just jump in my bed for no reason [laughs]. I don’t know why, just Zach i’m sleeping with you tonight, I don’t care…He would wrap his arms around me and…just go to sleep.” – Zach Dobson, ESPN
Dobson had a supportive network of people that motivated him to be great:
“A lot of areas in Knoxville are low income. You know, these kids are put into an environment with scarce resources. My focus was really for him to recognize his own potential and inspire him to be something more.” – Andre Canty, 100 Black Men of Greater Knoxville (Zaevion’s Mentor)
“He was so very outgoing and just full of so much room. When he walked in the room, the room just filled up. He aint even have to talk and you felt his presence.” – Markastin Taylor (Zaevion’s brother) ESPN
The football field was his outlet. He was a strong defense player and his last moments were spent protecting his friends.
It was the last day of school. December 17th, 2015. He was with some friends on the porch at night, talking about the football game that was held hours before when shots were fired. He grabbed his friends, Faith and Kiara, pulled them to the ground and covered them. He was their shield and they were not injured.
Mourning his death, everyone who knew Dobson had nothing but great things to say:
“To have a 15 year old do that type of act, and without the training that we’ve had — that’s extraordinary. – Chief David Rausch, Knoxville Chief of Police, ESPN
“I can’t think of anything more courageous to do than to lay down your life for friends the way Zaevion did.” – Rob Black (Fulton High School Football Coach), ESPN
It’s admirable to know that he didn’t even think twice about saving his friends.
“Zaevion used to tell me, you gotta have my back. I said, Zaevion, I got your friend and back. He would always say fight for me…and I can hear his voice now. Fight for me.” – Zenobia Dobson (Zaevion’s Mother), ESPN
Her love for Zaevion and his heroism inspires her to continue his legacy. She uses her voice to create a safer world for all and attended the 2016 ESPY’s with her sons, where Zaevion was honored and given the “Arthur Ashe” Award.
In her speech on behalf of Zaevion, she said:
“I’m here to urge all of you to join the movement tonight to save innocent lives..We need to rewrite laws. To make it harder for the people to get guns. Some progress has been made, but just a few months ago in Tennessee, a law was passed to allow people to carry more guns on college campuses. What sense does that make? We need to go in the opposite direction. I’m here to fight back…We as a country need to take a stand to consider the effects of gun violence on families throughout America” (Zenobia Dobson, ESPY Awards).
Through the memories of Zaevion from friends and family, he will surely never be forgotten. Zaevion Dobson was a true hero.