Dobson, who was a sophomore and football player at Fulton High School in Knoxville, Tennessee, is remembered as a hero by family members and friends. President Barack Obama praised the teen’s actions in January during a speech on gun violence, describing his martydom as, “an act of heroism a lot bigger than we should expect from a 15-year-old,” continuing that, “He was a hero at 15. What’s our excuse for not acting?”
Dobson's murder occurred on December 17 in his neighborhood in Knoxville. Dobson and his brother, Zackelyn, were sitting on their cousin’s porch, when gang members began indiscriminately shooting at them. Dobson’s immediate reaction was to push the nearest people to the ground, shielding them with his body and losing his life to a stray bullet.
Dobson’s death caused city-wide and nation-wide mourning. The Fulton Football Team released a statement the day after Dobson’s death that said, “We want you to know that Zaevion was an outstanding young man who will always be remembered as a hero.” While alive, Dobson’s humble and charismatic personality earned him the love and admiration of his community. The teen was a member of the Knoxville division of 100 Black Men, where he mentored young kids, and avidly participated in Martin Chapel United Methodist Church’s bible study group. In his honor, the mentoring group established a $1,000 scholarship. The act of heroism on December 17 that incited national attention was not out of character for Dobson; he had defended kids since he was little. “If he saw kids getting bullied, he’d step in and stay, ‘Don’t bully them,’ said Dobson’s mother, Zenobia.
With aspirations of playing in the NFL, Dobson’s love for the sport was well known to his community. His mother recalls, “Zaevion loved football. He would come home from school, play the game, eat, do homework, and watch football footage.” His favorite NFL team was the Denver Broncos and recently retired Seattle Seahawks running back, Marshawn Lynch, was his favorite player.
Dobson is the youngest person to ever receive the award and the first posthumous winner since Pat Tillman. His mother will accept the 2016 Arthur Ashe Courage Award in his honor, with his brothers Zackelyn and Markastin Taylor present. His legacy will live on through his family members, friends, community, and through the support of the nation. You can watch the ESPYs tonight at 8 pm EDT on ABC.
For more information, visit the ESPY Awards