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.
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.