Bobby Roundtree, the former Illinois standout defensive end who was paralyzed from the waist down in a swimming accident two years ago, died Friday, the university announced.
He was 23 years old.
The school did not disclose the cause of death. Roundtree died in Tampa, where he was rehabilitated from a spinal cord injury.
“We, along with all of the Illinois Athletics, are shocked and saddened by the sudden passing of Bobby Roundtree,” Illinois Athletics director Josh Whitman said in a statement. “From his first day on campus, Bobby was a leader. His work ethic, competitive fire and drive for excellence set him apart.
“After his tragic accident, those same qualities allowed him to tackle his new challenges with the same enthusiasm and determination we had seen on the football field,” Whitman said. “In doing so, he continued to bring light and inspiration to the lives of those around him—and indeed, to so many others who had never had the pleasure of meeting him.”
Roundtree suffered a serious spinal injury while jumping off a boat in Florida after his sophomore season.
He was sharing his rehab journey on social media and became a source of inspiration for the football program.
“I learned that I am strong,” Roundtree told reporters in 2020. “I probably don’t think I’ll be able to do it, but here I do it. It also taught me to always have a back-up plan. I was just thinking about the NFL, but I got hurt. A door would have closed.” And the other opened. It taught me that I am a strong young man. I still have goals that I have to reach and I will reach them.”
His most recent video was posted on Twitter on Monday with the caption, “Day by day.”
In two seasons with Illinois, Roundtree started 20 of 24 games. He earned an All-Big Ten honorable mention in 2018 after leading the Fighting Illini with 7.5 sacks and 12.5 tackle losses in his final season.