Zaevion Dobson was just 15 years old when he was shot and killed while shielding three friends from random gunfire

By Tiare Dunlap
July 13, 2016 08:00 PM
Knox County Schools/AP

Zaevion Dobson was just 15 years old when he was shot and killed while shielding three friends from random gunfire. Tonight, the high school football star was honored with the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the ESPYs.

The Knoxville, Tennessee teen’s mother, Zenobia Dobson, accepted the award that it is given to an individual “possessing strength in the face of adversity, courage in the face of peril and the willingness to stand up for their beliefs no matter what the cost,” according to ESPN, and was presented by Steph Curry.

” We as a country need to take a stand to consider the effects of gun violence on families throughout America,” Zenobia said in her acceptance speech.

“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.”

Zenobia, who was accompanied on stage by her two sons, pleaded the athletes in the audience to use their influence to prevent gun violence.

“All the athletes in this room, you have a lot of power, people look up to you. I know Zaevion did. I urge you to think tonight about why he died and what you can do to prevent the next innocent young manor woman from being lost as well,” she said. “If my son were here tonight I knew what I’d say to him, Zaevion, you’re dream and visions are here with us to prove that your act of bravery and boldness revealed to the word the real you – handsome strong and with a beautiful spirit you were, and remain, a guardian angel to us in heaven is where you belong. Fly high our falcon ”

In December 2015, Zevion was shot to death while shielding three girls from random bullets fired in what police deemed a gang-related shooting. Authorities said the high school sophomore and his friends had no connection to the gunmen and were likely the victims of a retaliatory attack meant for someone else, according to the Knoxville News Sentinel.

“Arthur Ashe was a leading example of strength and courage for us as a family, and we feel truly blessed and honored that our Zaevion joins the ranks of honorees,” the statement continued. “Like Arthur Ashe, Zaevion faced obstacles, but he overcame them. With this award, we know that Zaevion’s name and example will never be forgotten,” Zenobia said in a statement on behalf of the Dobson family before the ESPYs.

Zaevion was a promising athlete and student who was “always trying to take care of other folks,” his high school principal told NBC News. “He would always be checking on other students. He was the kid that other kids wanted to be around.”

Zaevion, whose heroic act was lauded by President Barack Obama in a speech in January, will be the youngest ever recipient of the award.

He gave his life to save theirs – an act of heroism a lot bigger than anything we should ever expect from a 15-year-old,” President Obama said.

“Zaevion’s actions to risk his own life for others demonstrate the true meaning of the word courage, and his boundless bravery has inspired many,” ESPYS Executive Producer Maura Mandt said in a statement. “By celebrating Zaevion’s legacy, we hope to bring more attention to this serious issue and continued focus on the tragic loss of lives to gun violence.”

Earlier in the night, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony delivered a powerful Black Lives Matter speech.