Bobby Roundtree, the former Illinois defensive end whose football dreams came to an end when he was paralyzed in a diving accident two years ago, died Friday in the Tampa Bay area. He was 23.
The Illinois football program announced Roundtree’s death Friday afternoon.
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 in a diving accident near his home in Largo, Florida.
The once fearsome pass rusher soon pivoted his attention from football to new goals, including walking again and trying to inspire others. He spoke with the Sun-Times’ Steve Greenberg for a November 2020 feature in which he opened up about his loneliness, frustrations, desire to inspire and his ultimate goal: independence:
“Just living comfortably,” Roundtree said. “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 joined the Illinois football team in 2017 after growing up in western Florida. He made an immediate impact as a freshman with 50 tackles and four sacks in 12 games, then emerged as one of the Big Ten’s best defensive players with 67 tackles and 13.5 sacks as a sophomore.