Former Illini football player dies at age 23

Former Illinois football player Bobby Roundtree died Friday, greater than two years after a devastating spinal wire harm suffered throughout a swimming accident. He was 23.

An inspiration in his battle to return from the harm, Roundtree died within the Tampa Bay space, in line with the varsity.

“There are no words to adequately express the sadness in my heart,” Illinois athletics director Josh Whitman posted on Twitter. “In the face of unspeakable adversity and hardship, Bobby brought life and optimism to every room he entered. He was a warrior, a leader, and an inspiration to all. I will never forget him. Love you, 97.”

Many of Roundtree’s former teammates posted their ideas Friday afternoon as information rolled throughout social media.

Peoria native and former Illinois lineman Kendrick Green, now a rookie with the Pittsburgh Steelers, merely posted: “Rip to my dawg man. 97”

Said Illinois lineman Jamal Woods: “I really just lost my best friend. I love you brother … #97strong will never disappear. I know you up there jumping and walking around like never before.”

Wrote former Illinois linebacker Dele Harding: “Definition of perseverance! I know you in a better place. I love you bro. 97strong forever!”

Roundtree’s life was upended in May 2019, when he misplaced use of his legs and had his higher physique motion considerably restricted after a swimming accident close to his house in Largo, Florida. One yr later, he spoke publicly for the primary time because the accident — sharing a message of hope and willpower.

“I just want to show everybody anything is possible,” Roundtree stated in May 2020. “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.”

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

Whitman launched an extra assertion about Roundtree, calling Illinois athletics “shocked and saddened” by the demise.

“From his first day on campus, Bobby was a leader,” Whitman continued. “His work ethic, aggressive hearth, and drive for excellence set him aside. Following his tragic accident, those self same qualities allowed him to sort out his new challenges with the identical vigor and willpower that we had seen on the football area. In so doing, he continued to convey mild and inspiration to the lives of these round him — and, the truth is, to so many individuals who had by no means had the pleasure of assembly him.

“In the face of unbelievable adversity, he demonstrated he was, and at all times will stay, a real champion. Our ideas and prayers are along with his household. We will assist them, and our gamers, coaches, and workers who knew him properly, as we wrestle to grasp this horrible information and, in the end, look to have a good time the outstanding younger chief we’ve got misplaced.”

In two years at Illinois, Roundtree performed in 24 video games and began in 20. He received the group’s Dick Butkus Outstanding Defensive Player award after a sophomore season in 2018 throughout which he had a team-high 12.5 tackles for loss, 7.5 sacks and 7 move break-ups, whereas additionally registering 66 tackles.

Roundtree’s rehabilitation performed out throughout social media, inspiring many.

Just earlier than Christmas 2019, he shared a video of him doing modified push-ups from the Shirley Ryan Ability Lab in Chicago, the place he spent many months following the accident. He then frequently shared movies of his progress on Twitter, with an eye fixed towards not solely strolling once more however touring, teaching or perhaps beginning a rehab heart

“I wish to do one thing that’s going to assist individuals which have been by this,” Roundtree said in 2020. “I wish to present all people that something is feasible, irrespective of your state of affairs.”

Wes Huett is Journal Star sports activities editor. Email him at Follow him on Twitter @WesHuett. Gavin Good contributed to this story.

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