Former Illinois defensive end Bobby Roundtree, who was paralyzed in a 2019 swimming accident, died unexpectedly Friday at age 23.
The school confirmed his passing a news release.
“All of us with Illinois Athletics are shocked and saddened by the sudden passing of Bobby Roundtree,” athletic director Josh Whitman said. “From his first day on campus, Bobby was a leader. His work ethic, competitive fire, and drive for excellence set him apart. 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. 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.”
Roundtree suffered a severe spinal cord injury in the accident when he went home to Florida for a visit in May 2019. He had been rehabilitating in the Tampa area, where he died.
The school did not reveal a cause of death.
He frequently posted videos to Twitter highlighting the progress in his rehabilitation sessions, with the most recent coming Monday.
“He was fine. He was not sick. He just stopped breathing,” Brenda McCarthy, who knew Roundtree through her role as executive director of the nonprofit group We Believe In Me, told The News-Gazette in Champaign, Ill.
Roundtree played two seasons for the Illini, starting 20 games and earning All-Big Ten honorable mention honors in 2018.
“In the face of incredible adversity, he demonstrated he was, and always will remain, a true champion,” Whitman said. “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.”
–Field Level Media