A Knoxville, Tennessee, high school football player who died in December while protecting three girls from gunfire will receive this year’s Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the ESPYs tonight.
Zaevion Dobson died while shielding three girls, who were unharmed, from shots when several men drove into his neighborhood and opened fire, according to Knoxville police. Police believed that the shootings were gang-related and that Dobson, 15, was not targeted.
His mother, Zenobia Dobson, will accept the award on her son’s behalf tonight when the ESPYs honor his courageous act.
“I’m just so honored to be his mother,” she told The Associated Press. “I will always love him in my heart, but since his passing, I love him even more. I draw closer to him every day. I visit him at the cemetery every day, and I just talk to him every day, every single day. Even when I wake up in the morning, his picture is right there on my dresser, and I can look at him. Even if my eyes are closed, I still say, ‘Good morning, Zaevion,’ or ‘Good night, Zaevion,’ ‘I love you, Zaevion,’ ‘I miss you, Zaevion.'”
His brothers, Zack Dobson and Markastin Taylor, will also attend today’s ceremony, hosted by WWE star John Cena, ESPN announced in a statement.
“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. We are proud to honor him with the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at this year’s ESPYs,” said Maura Mandt, the award show’s executive producer. “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.”
Zaevion Dobson, who died shielding 2 girls from gunfire, will win the 2016 @Cadillac Arthur Ashe Courage Award. pic.twitter.com/PMVLmOubZB
— ESPYS (@ESPYS) June 21, 2016
Zaevion Dobson was a sophomore at Fulton High School and played for the football team, which is coached by Rob Black, who will also attend the ceremony tonight, according to his Twitter account.
View image on Twitter
Happy Birthday in Heaven Zae! You are missed. #Legacy #Impact #LongLiveZae #24Strong pic.twitter.com/Z7YpuDFUqC
— Rob Black (@FHSCoachBlack) June 28, 2016
Dobson’s death has deeply affected his community and raised calls from Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero and President Barack Obama to end gun violence.
“He was really one of our success stories,” Rogero said. “Involved in sports, a mentee of one of our organizations in town. But still he falls victim to this.”
Obama honored Dobson in a tweet:
Zaevion Dobson died saving three friends from getting shot. He was a hero at 15. What's our excuse for not acting? https://t.co/hn98uGsjKZ
— President Obama (@POTUS) December 20, 2015