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Nebraska's Adrian Martinez gets sacked by Illinois' Bobby Roundtree in the second quarter as Illinois' Owen Carney Jr. (99) pursues the play. Nebraska played Illinois in a college football game at Memorial Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 10, 2018, in Lincoln, Nebraska.

You sometimes look for positives in even the most horrific circumstances.

The Illinois football team suffered a tremendous loss when Bobby Roundtree sustained severe spinal injuries as the result of a dive off a boat into shallow waters on May 18.

You sometimes look for positives in even the most horrific circumstances.

The Illinois football team suffered a tremendous loss when Bobby Roundtree sustained severe spinal injuries as the result of a dive off a boat into shallow waters on May 18.

“Bobby Roundtree is exactly what you want in a student athlete,” Illinois head coach Lovie Smith told reporters at the time. “He is a hard worker, dependable, a dedicated student and a leader.

“This is devastating to his teammates, the entire Fighting Illini family and his family and friends. We will give Bobby all the support possible as he battles through his recovery. Please keep Bobby and his family in your thoughts and prayers.”

Roundtree started 20 of 24 games during his two seasons at Illinois. He was named honorable mention All-Big Ten last year as a sophomore and was expected to be one of the team’s best players this year.

Roundtree is continuing his rehabilitation at Shirley Ryan Ability Lab in Chicago. There has been no official update on his condition, but the hope is he can return to Champaign as a student at some point during the school year.

Playing football again seems to be pretty much out of the question.

‘‘We will miss an outstanding man and outstanding football player, an outstanding leader, just everything about Bobby Roundtree,’’ Smith said at the team’s annual media day. ‘‘We’ll miss him. But the way our team can honor him is with its play. He’ll always be involved and be close this year.’’

Some of the Illinois players visited Roundtree when they were in Chicago for Big Ten Media Days in July.

“Obviously he was in a devastating accident. We got to see him this morning and his spirits were really high,” defensive back Nate Hobbs said. “That touched my heart. I was really glad to know that he was in a good state mentally.”

Roundtree told his teammates he was going to get back on campus, and he was going to walk again.

“I could have shed a tear when he said he had dreams of walking,” Hobbs said. “I was like dang. You can’t take life for granted at all. The things that people dream about like that, we got people dreaming to walk, so you can’t take that for granted at all.

“I’m just learning that this thing called life, it’s so much bigger than football, even though football is a huge part of my life.”

But Hobbs was encouraged by Roundtree’s positive attitude.

“That just warmed my heart to know that my brother is not like down low,” Hobbs said. “He’s going to come out on top.”

The Illini is hoping to come out on top too. Illinois has had a tough go of it in recent years, but the roster is now loaded with some young players who are also experienced.

Hobbs wants his team to dominate.

“We don’t care who we’re playing,” he said. “We don’t care if it’s Penn State, Rutgers, Michigan. It doesn’t matter who it is. We’re going to compete and dominate. That’s what I want to do is dominate.”

The Illini may be better able to handle adversity when it hits just because of the added depth they have across the board.

“ A lot of what happened to us is when you lose some of your front-line players, there’s too much of a drop,” Smith said. “We’re in a better position with that. Even losing a player like Bobby, we have an excellent recruiting class coming in of defensive linemen.”

The Illini may just turn the tragic loss of Roundtree into a rallying cry this season. It could help bring the team together.

Roundtree’s injury combined with a couple of tough seasons may just help Illinois turn things around.

“You can expect a lot,” Hobbs said. “We’re coming to dominate. We have a different mentality this year. We just want to kill everything. We’ve been humbled. We got humbled a lot last season.”

Bob Hamar is sports editor for The Independent.

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