Bobby Roundtree, Former Illinois Football Star Paralyzed in 2019 Diving Accident, Dies at 23

Bobby Roundtree in 2020. Photo by Jill Hearns

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. The cause of 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 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.”

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SOURCE: Chicago Sun-Times, Steve Greenberg and Satchel Price

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