TAMPA, Fla. — Former Largo High School football star Bobby Roundtree was the University of Illinois Defensive MVP as a sophomore in 2018. The following spring, a swimming accident left him without the use of his legs and fingers. But Roundtree isn't sulking. He's turning the injury into a chance to inspire others.
"They’re saying I won’t be able to do this or that. I really just want to prove them wrong," Roundtree said about what people told him after his injury. "I can do anything I put my mind to."
Although he pushes his own wheelchair, the injury took most of his mobility. Roundtree says he plans on taking it back.
"I’m the same me. I just want to get back to the same physical me. It keeps me hungry every day."
Roundtree's mother, Jacqueline Hearns, is her son's number one sidekick.
"I have to get up, make sure he’s gotten his medication, and exercise, and get out of bed," Hearns smiled. "He likes being in bed, but I have to get him out of bed."
Helping her son deal with adversity is hard work, but she says it's all worth it.
"He keeps me happy. He’s a popular person. He’s a jokester to me. He keeps me laughing throughout the day."
"Without her, I probably wouldn’t be as far as I am now," Roundtree said. "That’s really important."
Roundtree says he wants to use his experience as a vehicle for inspiration.
"When I put my first video out of me doing push-ups, and everyone was saying 'Wow, that made me want to go harder.' It made me feel like I should share my journey," he said. "It makes me happy to know it affects other people in the community and all over. It means a lot to me."
Bobby's exploring The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis, a research center at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. He hopes to do more work with them once the COVID-19 pandemic calms down, but Roundtree's not waiting around. He continues to attack his rehab aggressively, and he's already making plans for next year.
"I’ll be back on my feet, moving," Roundtree said confidently, without hesitation. "After that, just keep on inspiring people. A tragedy can happen any time, any second. I want to be traveling, helping people not give up. Back on my feet."