CHAMPAIGN (WCIA) — Bobby Roundtree was once an NFL draft hopeful, but now has very different goals. The Illini defensive end is working towards his dream of being able to walk again.
“When someone tells me I can’t do something, I’ll prove them wrong and show them I’ll be able to do it,” says Roundtree. “One door closes and more open. It taught me I’m a strong young man. I’ve still got goals to reach, and I’ll reach them.”
After a standout sophomore season, leading the Ilini in sacks and tackles for loss, Roundtree suffered a severe spinal cord injury in a swimming accident near his home in Florida. He spent several months in the hospital, losing 70 pounds.
“My family was like, ‘You’re special. You’ve got to work. You’re gonna get through this.’ When I first saw how much weight I lost, it did something to me where I wanted to get back to being that big dude on campus,” says Roundtree. “Not being used to this, it just made me want to go harder to get back to being on my feet and being independent.”
The 22-year-old is another step closer to that goal. Roundtree was able to come back to Champaign in January as a full-time student, and still does physical therapy three days a week. Illinois head athletic trainer Jeremy Busch, says the progress he’s made is beyond what doctors expected.
“They said ‘we need to lay out realistic expectations’. And I said ‘No you don’t, you don’t know who you’re getting your hands on.’ You’ve watched a person that’s been truly at the worst point in his life, and he doesn’t acknowledge that to where it defeats him. He acknowledges it to motivate him.”
“God gives his hardest battles to his strongest warriors,” says Roundtree. “I’m grateful to have my family, my mom, my team and the whole Illini Nation behind me.”
That support wasn’t hard to see that season. A fundraiser to help with his medical bills raised nearly $140,000 dollars–and counting. Head Coach Lovie Smith spent several nights with Roundtree in the hospital after the accident. And when the Illini won, he was always a part of the celebration.
Roundtree was able to attend the final home game of the season, just 6 months after his accident.
He continues to show everyone what it looks like to be #97Strong.
“I just want to show everybody that this injury isn’t going to overcome me. I’m going to beat this. I’m going to be successful.”
Ways you can help Bobby Roundtree:
- To make a donation through GoFundMe, click here.
- To give directly to the Bobby T. Roundtree Trust, contact Busey Wealth Management at 217-365-4800. Checks made out to the Bobby T. Roundtree Trust can be mailed directly to Busey Wealth Management at P.O. Box 260, Champaign, IL 61824-0260.
Watch Bobby Roundtree’s full interview here: https://www.wcia.com/sports/wcia-3-in-1-podcast-97strong/