URBANA (WCIA) — It’s been more than two months since we learned of Illini defensive end Bobby Roundtree’s serious spinal injury. No one on the team has a better account than Khalan Tolson. The sophomore linebacker was with Roundtree in Florida when it happened.
“We had a doctor there but we called 911 immediately to try to get him some help, stayed with him the whole time,” Tolson said. “I had to help, I helped him get out the water with three other people. So we helped him get on the boat and stay still, make sure he didn’t move.”
The news immediately started making it’s way through the team.
His defensive line teammates took it hard, but knew they has to stay strong.
“When I first heard the news I was shocked because he was staying at my house the week prior,” Illinois sophomore defensive lineman Lere Oladipo said. “I kind of blamed it on myself for not telling him to stay and just stay the whole break with me but I know he wanted to go home and see his family so, that’s life.”
“I started crying,” Illinois sophomore defensive lineman Jamal Woods said upon hearing the news. “Bobby is like my brother, once I found out about what had happened I shed a couple tears but I stayed strong because I know he’d want us to stay strong for him.”
Now the Illini say they have something and someone to play for. And although he might not be in Champaign, Roundtree is recovering in a Chicago rehab hospital, he’s still with the team.
“He wishes he could be out here and we’re gonna grind for him like he grinded for us,” Oladipo said. “We breakdown on 97 sometimes and coach says don’t breakdown on 97 if you’re not gonna bring it every practice, don’t bring disrespect to his name so we grind for him and we just bring it every practice.”
“So what we do is I’ll bring my phone in there and we’ll FaceTime him before the meeting starts or at the very end so everybody can get the chance to see him and talk to him and lift him up and pray for him,” Illinois defensive line coach Austin Clark said. “So he knows that we’re all here as a coaching staff, athletic department and team for him for whatever him and his family needs.”
Woods and Oladipo are only two of many d-lineman needed to fill the void left by Roundtree, who had a team high 12.5 tackles for loss last season.