Bobby Roundtree: Former Illinois football star dead at age 23

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Chicago Sun-Times 16 July, 2021 - 03:20pm 5 views

Who is Bobby Roundtree?

Former University of Illinois football player Bobby Roundtree, who was paralyzed in a swimming accident, died Friday, the school said. He was 23. Roundtree played for the Fightin' Illini for two seasons before the 2019 accident in Florida. USA TODAYFormer Illinois football player Bobby Roundtree, who was paralyzed in swimming accident, dies at 23

How did Bobby Roundtree get injured?

Former Illinois defensive end Bobby Roundtree died Friday at the age of 23, the football program announced. Roundtree suffered a serious spinal cord injury during a boating and swimming accident in Tampa Bay, Fla. in May 2019. The AthleticFormer Illinois DE Bobby Roundtree dies at 23

Roundtree starred for the Fighting Illini before a tragic accident in 2019 left him paralyzed.

The Illinois football program announced Roundtree’s death Friday afternoon. The cause of his death was not immediately known.

Roundtree, a star on the Fighting Illini defense for two seasons, had his life changed May 18, 2019, when he suffered a severe spinal injury while jumping off a boat in the Intercoastal Waterway near his home in Largo, Florida. He was left an incomplete quadriplegic, with considerable use of his upper body but not of his legs or fingers.

Roundtree had a long rehabilitation stay at the Shirley Ryan Ability Lab in Chicago, where he accomplished milestones such as going from lying down to sitting up and moving from a power wheelchair to a manual one. After returning to Florida, he stepped up his workouts while remaining an Illinois student, using a stylus with an attached mouthpiece to study remotely.

Physical therapists and strength-and-conditioning coaches in both Chicago and Florida raved about Roundtree’s work ethic and attitude. Roundtree often posted motivational messages and videos of his workouts on social media. In one posted Monday, he pulled himself into a standing position using attachments on his hands to grip vertical bars and with the support of a trainer facing him and pulling on a harness.

Just Thursday night, he wrote on Twitter, “Stay humble and keep ELEVATING.”

Before his injury, Roundtree was determined to make it to the NFL. He’d led the Illini in sacks and been awarded as the team’s best defensive player as a sophomore in 2018 and was a legitimate draft prospect.

He hoped to make life easier for his mother, have a family of his own and do lots of traveling. He imagined owning two homes, one on the beach and the other with lots of land for four-wheelers and a nice pool and hot tub.

“Just living comfortably,” he said late last year.

Roundtree gave his first extended one-on-one interview to the Sun-Times close to a year and a half after his injury. He pledged to walk again — “I know I will,” he said — and, in the November 2020 feature, opened up about his loneliness, frustrations, desire to inspire and his ultimate goal: independence.

“Just being able to wake up and get myself dressed, not need help to use the restroom, to brush my own teeth,” he says. “I would like to be able to feed myself. To just get out and be working, doing stuff I don’t need no assistance for.”

Roundtree had many tattoos. The one that meant the most to him in the last years of his life was on his right biceps: “Focus on the Mission.” He got it before his high school graduation to motivate him at Illinois. It came to represent so much more than that.

The “mission” helped him get through the challenges of a pandemic that, among other things, made rehab move more slowly at times than he wanted.

“Everything that I like and want to do, it just makes me want to go harder,” he said. “I try not to talk about it a lot, don’t put my head there. It doesn’t make me sad or anything. I just try to stay sane and hungry.”

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Bobby Roundtree, the former Illinois defensive end who suffered a severe spinal injury, dies at 23

Chicago Tribune 16 July, 2021 - 04:02pm

“The Illini Family has lost one of its inspirational leaders with the passing of Bobby Roundtree Friday in the Tampa Bay area,” the university’s football team tweeted. “RIP @BobbyRoundtr97. We will miss you.”

In a statement, Illinois athletic director Josh Whitman called Roundtree a leader.

“His work ethic, competitive fire, and drive for excellence set him apart,” Whitman said in the statement. “Following his tragic accident, those same qualities allowed him to tackle his new challenges with the same vigor and determination that we had seen on the football field. In so doing, he continued to bring light and inspiration to the lives of those around him — and, in fact, to so many people who had never had the pleasure of meeting him.”

Roundtree, a dominant defensive end, suffered the injury during a swimming accident near his hometown of Largo, Fla., on May 18, 2019. He underwent spinal surgery later that month in Florida but the accident left him paralyzed from the waist down.

The Illini kept a GoFundMe campaign running with the goal of raising $97,000 for medical bills through the #97Strong hashtag. The 6-foot-5 lineman wore No. 97.

“With everybody so behind me and pushing me, that makes me want to go harder as well,” Roundtree said in 2020. “I don’t have a million dollars to help me through this all. That’s a lot of love right there.”

In two seasons, Roundtree recorded 116 total tackles and 11½ sacks. He won the Illini’s outstanding defensive player award as a sophomore.

Roundtree kept a positive attitude despite his debilitating injury.

“I just want to show everybody anything is possible,” he said in May 2020. “You can be on top of the world and something happens. Things might not go as planned. … This injury isn’t going to overcome me and I’m going to beat this. I’m going to be successful. I want to show everything is possible no matter your situation.”

Fittingly, his last tweet Thursday was one of affirmation: “Stay humble and keep ELEVATING.”

A video Monday showed him working on his physical rehabilitation — using his arms to pull himself into a standing — with the caption “day by day.”

Copyright © 2021, Chicago Tribune

Former Illinois football player Bobby Roundtree dies at 23

WGN TV Chicago 16 July, 2021 - 03:22pm

Former Illinois football player Bobby Roundtree died on July 16th at the age of 23.

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — After suffering a spinal cord injury in the spring of 2019, he became an inspiration to people inside and outside the Illinois football program as he worked to regain his strength after a serious injury.

His determination during the biggest challenge of his life is what many are remembering about Bobby Roundtree after his death at the age of 23 on Friday.

The Illini football program announced his death on Friday afternoon, coming just over two years after he suffered the spinal cord injury on May 18, 2019 in a swimming accident in Florida. It left him paralyzed from the chest down, but he continued to stay in contact with the team the following season.

He would talk with players as the program reached its first bowl game in five years that fall. After the team’s upset of then No. 6 Wisconsin in Champaign on October 20th of that year, Roundtree joined the team via a video call to celebrate the victory.

He later traveled to Champaign to join the team at Memorial Stadium for their regular season finale against Northwestern on November 30 of that year, giving the team a pregame speech.

Roundtree continued his efforts to work back to health at the Shirley Ryan Ability Lab in Chicago and then in his home state of Florida.

“I just want more people to know my story and where I come from, where I was and what my original plans were to end, and just want to show this accident didn’t knock me off the map,” said Roundtree to Frydman during the WGN story.

When the late Bobby Roundtree was on the field for @IlliniFootball, he was a playmaker in Lovie Smith's defense. In 24 games he had 16 1/2 tackles for loss that included 11 1/2 sacks in 2017 and 2018. https://t.co/IjxkAqMe7a

Before the injury, Roundtree was a standout defensive end on Lovie Smith’s team, showing a knack for getting to the quarterback in his only two seasons on the field. In 2017, he had four sacks and boosted that total to 7.5 in 2018, which was a part of his 13.5 tackles for loss on the season.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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Bobby Roundtree

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