Former Illinois football player Bobby Roundtree, who was paralyzed in swimming accident, dies at 23

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Former University of Illinois football player Bobby Roundtree, who was paralyzed in a swimming accident, died Friday, the school said. He was 23.

Roundtree played for the Fightin' Illini for two seasons before the 2019 accident in Florida. The defensive end earned an All-Big Ten honorable mention in his sophomore season, during which he led Illinois in tackles for loss, sacks and pass breakups.

“From his first day on campus, Bobby was a leader. His work ethic, competitive fire, and drive for excellence set him apart,” Illinois athletics director Josh Whitman said in a statement. “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.

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"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.”

The school did not announce a cause of death.

Roundtree had been sharing his experience with rehab and physical therapy. His most recent video appeared on Twitter on Monday.

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A GoFundMe was set up in October 2020 by Roundtree's mother, Jill Hearns, to help cover the cost of his therapy. More than $33,000 had been raised.

A separate fundraiser under the title "#97Strong: Fight for Bobby Roundtree" was set up in October 2019 by the Illinois Division of Intercollegiate Athletics and has raised more than $130,000.

"In the face of incredible adversity, he demonstrated he was, and will always 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."

Contact Emily Leiker at eleiker@usatoday.com or on Twitter @emleiker

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Bobby Roundtree, former Illinois defensive end, dies at 23