Champaign, IL — University of Illinois defensive end Bobby Roundtree made an emotional appearance in Saturday’s game against the Northwestern Wildcats.
Back in May, Roundtree suffered a devastating swimming injury in May while in Florida. His accident left him needing spinal surgery and in a wheelchair. Roundtree has missed the whole season and Saturday he made his return to campus.
“It’s hard to express in words,” said head coach Love Smith. “A lot of emotions were involved in the locker room today.”
Roundtree was heading into his junior year before the injury. He received All Big Ten honorable mention after leading the Illini with 7 and a half sacks and finishing third on the team with 66 tackles. The Fighting Illini pass rusher was surely missed this year, but Saturday was an amazing accolade for his recovery.
Several players have taken trips in the fall to visit Roundtree as he continued his physical rehab at the Shirley Ryan Ability Lab in Chicago. In addition, Smith has said Roundtree has been present and involved in team meetings via FaceTime and Skype.
The soon to be NFL hopeful made internal impact on his teammates as Smith pushed his wheelchair into the locker room as the team was preparing to go toe-to-toe against their rivals. All amazed, the players gathered around him in a pre-game prayer before heading out to the field to battle in their regular season finale.
“A lot of emotions were also in the mix as well, a couple of guys seeing him for the first time,” Illinois senior linebacker Dele Harding said. “We dedicated the season to him, so seeing him in person was definitely emotional on my behalf.”
There is a Gofundme (#97Strong) set up for Bobby to help with rehab, transportation services, special diets, occupational therapy, and medical care assistance since his accident. The goal is $97,000 as 97 is his number.
“He has been working hard. And his goal is to be able to walk again,” Smith stated. “ Bobby and all of us are ready to make the next step.”
Smith and the Fighting Illini plan on taking Roundtree to the Bowl game once the announcement is made where and who the team plays. He hopes to be back on campus to resume classes during the spring term of his third year at Illinois.