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Former Illinois football star Bobby Roundtree dies aged 23 after swimming accident left him with severe spinal injury


FORMER University of Illinois football star Bobby Roundtree, who made waves after playing as a lead defensive linesman, died on Friday aged 23.

His death comes only two years after he suffered a devastating spinal injury following a swimming accident in 2019.

Star football player Bobby Roundtree has died at the age of 23[/caption]
Roundtree suffered a severe spinal injury in 2019 that cut his football career short[/caption]

“All of us with Illinois Athletics are shocked and saddened by the sudden passing of Bobby Roundtree,” read a statement from University of Illinois athletics director Josh Whitman.

“From his first day on campus, Bobby was a leader. His work ethic, competitive fire, and drive for excellence set him apart,” the statement continued.

“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,” Whitman added.

Whitman was referring to a May 2019 swimming incident that left Roundtree with a severe spinal injury and cut his football career short.

He was a standout player for the Illini from 2017 to 2018 and had been in rehab in Tampa ever since the injury.

Roundtree led the school in tackles for loss (12.5), sacks (7.5) and pass breakups (seven), and earned an All-Big Ten honorable mention for his 66 tackles.

I was just thinking about the NFL, but I got hurt. One door closes and more open.

Bobby Roundtree

The 6-foot-5, 255-pound Largo, Florida native was receiving early attention from NFL scouts his sophomore year and was likely to become one of the Big Ten’s best pass rushers just before his injury.

Despite his incident, he still kept a great mood, even as he told reporters a year after his incident that he was still going strong.

“I learned that I’m strong,” Roundtree said in 2020.

“I probably wouldn’t think I’d be able to do this, but here I am doing it. It taught me also to always have a backup plan.”

“I was just thinking about the NFL, but I got hurt. One door closes and more open. It taught me I’m a strong young man. I’ve still got goals to reach, and I’ll reach them,” he said.

“I just want to show everybody anything is possible,” Roundtree continued.

“You can be on top of the world and something happens. Things might not go as planned, but there are things out there for everybody.

He continued to bring light and inspiration to the lives of those around him.

University of Illinois athletics director Josh Whitman

“I just want to show everybody that this injury isn’t going to overcome me. I’m going to beat this. I’m going to be successful.”

Whitman said Roundtree’s attitude shined in his daily interactions.

“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.”

“In the face of incredible adversity, he demonstrated he was, and always will remain, a true champion. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family. We will support them, and our players, coaches, and staff who knew him well, as we struggle to understand this terrible news and, ultimately, look to celebrate the remarkable young leader we have lost.”

Roundtree was getting plenty of attention from NFL scouts during his breakout sophomore year[/caption]
Roundtree earned an All-Big Ten honorable mention for his 66 tackles[/caption]

“The Illini Family has lost one of its inspirational leaders with the passing of Bobby Roundtree Friday in the Tampa Bay area,” read a tweet from the Illinois football team.

“RIP Bobby Roundtree. We will miss you.”

A GoFundMe set up by his mother at the time of his injury has already seen an uptick in donations following news of his passing.

“Bobby is now in his second year of his injury, he is having a hard time, he thought he would be further along,” his mother Jill Hearns wrote at the time.

“Bobby is staying determined with all the support you are showing  over social media, and would like to keep going, but he also feels he needs another year of intense therapy.”



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