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A 15-Year-Old Who Died Saving His Friends Won The ESPY Award for Courage

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On Wednesday, the ESPYs honored Zaevion Dobson, a high school football player who was killed in December after shielding three girls from gunfire. The 15-year-old of Knoxville, Tenn., was posthumously awarded the Arthur Ashe Award of Courage, which has previously been bestowed upon people like Caitlyn Jenner, Michael Sams, Robin Roberts and Pat Summit.

ESPN honored his memory with a heart-wrenching video chronicling his life and murder, which featured interviews from his friends and family. In the video, his oldest brother, Markastin Taylor, remarked that he always tried to keep Dobson out of trouble. "I told him just because we lived in this environment does not mean you have to be of this environment. You can be different. You can stand out," said Taylor. "He was just full of so much love. When he walked in the room, the room lit up." 

At the time of his murder, he was a well-liked sophomore at Knoxville's Fulton County High School. Michael B. Jordan, as the voice of Dobson in the video, said that nothing made the 15-year-old dream bigger than football. His teammates also spoke up in his memory. "Everyone wanted to be around him. He was funny. Made me feel good like I had my brother next to me. He'd do anything for us," said teammate and friend Xavier Malone.


On December 17, 2015, Dobson was hanging out on a porch with Malone, his brother, Zack, and two girls. Then gunfire rang out. During the hail of bullets, he pulled the two girls to the ground. He then laid on top of them, shielding the girls. The bullets that killed Dobson reportedly came from three men who were shooting in retaliation for the shooting of their mother earlier that day. One of the gunmen died later that day when he was shot and crashed his car. The girls were unharmed. "To have a 15-year-old, do that kind of act...And without that type of training that we had...That's extraordinary," said Chief of Police David Rausch.

President Obama said at a later press conference, "Zaevion Dobson gave his life to save theirs. An act of courage bigger than anything we should expect from a 15-year-old."

Dobson's mother and two brothers accepted the award on his behalf. His mother, Zenobia, urged all of the athletes in attendance to stand up for gun control. "All the athletes in this room...Y'all have a lot of power. People look up to you. I know Zaevion did."


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