Former Illinois DL Bobby Roundtree Dies at Age 23

Paul KasabianFeatured Columnist IIJuly 16, 2021

Illinois defensive lineman Bobby Roundtree (97) sacks Western Kentucky quarterback Mike White during the fourth quarter of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017, in Champaign, Ill. Illinois won 20-7. (AP Photo/Bradley Leeb)
AP Photo/Bradley Leeb

Former University of Illinois defensive end Bobby Roundtree has died at the age of 23.

The Illini football program announced the news on Friday:

Illinois Football @IlliniFootball

The Illini Family has lost one of its inspirational leaders with the passing of Bobby Roundtree Friday in the Tampa Bay area.<br><br>RIP <a href="https://twitter.com/BobbyRoundtr97?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@BobbyRoundtr97</a>. We will miss you. <a href="https://t.co/VRo5tiNIJ5">pic.twitter.com/VRo5tiNIJ5</a>

Illinois athletic director Josh Whitman released a statement following Roundtree's death, per The Athletic:

"All of us with Illinois Athletics are shocked and saddened by the sudden passing of Bobby Roundtree. 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.
"In the face of incredible adversity, he demonstrated he was, and always will remain, a true champion. 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."

A diving accident on May 18, 2019, near Largo, Florida, where Roundtree lived, left the lineman paralyzed, per Satchel Price of the Chicago Sun-Times.

In Nov. 2020, Roundtree spoke with Steve Greenberg of the Chicago Sun-Times about his life and goals, including his primary intention to be independent.

“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. 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.”

Condolences from many people, including some of Roundtree's former teammates, poured in on Twitter following the news.

Joey Wagner of Illini Inquirer compiled some reactions from Dele Harding, Jamal Woods, Kendrick Green and James Crawford on their beloved teammate.

Rondo#️⃣9️⃣ @dele_harding

Forever in our hearts

Rondo#️⃣9️⃣ @dele_harding

Definition of perseverance! I know you in a better place. I love you bro. 97strong forever!

Jamal “Bobo” Woods @jamal4425

I love you brother ❤️ <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/97strong?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#97strong</a> will never disappear. I know you up there jumping and walking around like never before. 💔😢 <a href="https://t.co/CjzXEdouSs">pic.twitter.com/CjzXEdouSs</a>

Jamal “Bobo” Woods @jamal4425

Love you my guy this tweet will forever be in my heart “STAY HUMBLE AND KEEP ELEVATING” ❤️❤️❤️ <a href="https://t.co/GYx7LZz9Uk">https://t.co/GYx7LZz9Uk</a>

Kendrick J. Green @The_fridge53

Rip to my dawg man. 97.

James5Crawford_ @James5Crawford

97😞🙏🏾 Gone way too soon! <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/97strong?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#97strong</a>

James5Crawford_ @James5Crawford

We love you bobby! <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/97strong?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#97strong</a> <a href="https://t.co/gBwGAA5U3H">https://t.co/gBwGAA5U3H</a>

Roundtree played for Illinois during the 2017 and 2018 seasons, amassing 116 tackles and 11.5 sacks. He was honored with the Dick Butkus Outstanding Defensive Player award in 2018 in addition to earning an All-Big Ten honorable mention.