In the halls of Fulton High, it sounded like any other day. But one look at the dress code, and you’d see it was anything but.
“You know, we’re seeing the number 24, hashtags, Long Live Zae and 24 Strong,” said Rob Black, Fulton’s head football coach.
Fulton’s principal, Rob Speas, set Friday aside for students to wear shirts honoring Zaevion Dobson, a sophomore who wore No. 24 on the football team. Dobson was shot to death in an apparently random shooting Dec. 17 in the Lonsdale neighborhood. He was 15.
While Zaevion will never set foot in Fulton again, on Friday you couldn’t go more than a few feet without seeing his face emblazoned on a T-shirt or hoodie.
“It’s amazing to see our kids step up in a situation like this,” said Black. “Again, that just shows you the character of Zaevion, and how that has kind of spilled over into our school family here.”
The school started selling shirts with his football No. 24 about two weeks after Dobson was killed.
The shirts also have the hashtags #HERO, #LongLiveZae and #ZaevionDobson. The three hashtags were trending on Twitter after his death.
So far, 800 had been bought, with 150 more on the way. Already, they’ve raised more than $4,000 for the Dobson family, Speas said.
Seeing the shirts made Zaevion’s teammates think about what he would say.
“Oh, God,” laughed senior Jarien Green. “ He’s probably saying, ‘I’m famous, I’m famous. What you are you going to do now?’ I can hear him saying it.”
For Coach Black, seeing not just the students that bought shirts, but those that made their own was a powerful moment. He said it shows how the teens are dealing with a difficult loss together.
“Our students are there for each other, and know each others' needs,” Black said. “It’s been neat to watch our people step up in this situation and help people through it.”
He said that’s what Fulton is about – unity, even in the face of tragedy.
"Fulton community – we're so big,” said Green. “We stick together through it . Everybody loves each other. Fulton community is probably one of the best around. You can’t get better than the Fulton community."
Knox County Commissioner Jeff Ownby is proposing a resolution to make every Jan. 25 a tribute to Dobson.
The Knox County Commission must pass the resolution at the their meeting on Jan. 25 for it go into effect.
Staff at Fulton High School also set up a Zaevion Dobson scholarship fund, which will go to a deserving Fulton senior.