KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Instead of running away, Zaevion William Dobson took a leap.
The bound that he took was into the midst of gunfire, and it cost him his life.
It was December 2015 in Knoxville, Tennessee, and Zaevion, who was a 15-year-old sophomore high school football player at Fulton High School, jumped on top of three girls to shield them from a spray of bullets.
The girls were not injured. After the shooting, one of them told CNN affiliate WVLT that she told Zaevion that he could get up.
“But he didn’t get up,” Faith Robinson said. “So I just went upstairs, and by the time I came back to make sure everything was real, (I saw) he was shot in the head.”
On Wednesday, Zaevion was honored posthumously with the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at The 2016 ESPYS.
Zenobia Dobson, Zaevion’s mother, accepted the award on his behalf. She was accompanied by Zaevion’s brothers, Zack Dobson and Markastin Taylor.
“The family of Zaevion William Dobson accepts with great appreciation the honorable Arthur Ashe Award on behalf of our beloved young man of valor, who sacrificed himself to save others,” Zenobia Dobson said on behalf of the Dobson family.
“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. 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.”
President: ‘He gave his life to save theirs’
Zaevion was honored in a special tribute before Super Bowl 50 in February and also was recognized by President Barack Obama in a speech in January.
“He wasn’t in the wrong place at the wrong time; he hadn’t made a bad decision,” Obama said. “He was exactly where any other kid would be. Your kid. My kids. And then gunmen started firing.
“And Zaevion, who was in high school — hadn’t even gotten started in life — dove on top of three girls to shield them from the bullets. And he was shot in the head and the girls were spared.
“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.”
Flight 93 passengers were previous recipients
The Arthur Ashe Courage Award is presented annually to someone whose contributions transcends sports. The trophy’s namesake is for the late tennis legend Arthur Ashe, who dedicated his life to human rights advocacy.
“Sometimes that courage is demonstrated over the course of a lifetime and sometimes it is demonstrated in a single act that shines a light on an important contemporary issue,” a statement from ESPN released in 2015 read. “At all times, there are many worthy candidates.”
The statement was in response to outcry over Caitlyn Jenner being named the 2015 recipient.
Other previous recipients of the award, which dates back to 1993, include Jim Valvano; Muhammad Ali; Billie Jean King; Todd Beamer, Mark Bingham, Tom Burnett and Jeremy Glick, four passengers who lost their lives September 11, 2001 on United Flight 93; Pat and Kevin Tillman; and Pat Summitt.
“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.
“We are proud to honor him with the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at this year’s ESPYS. 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.”