Illinois standout Bobby Roundtree able to 'eat and speak normally' after spinal surgery, official says

University of Illinois defensive end Bobby Roundtree’s health appears to be slightly improving after he underwent surgery for a severe spinal injury he suffered in a swimming accident.

Roundtree, 21, was able to “eat and speak normally” following the accident, an Illinois athletic department spokesman told the Associated Press. He remained hospitalized following Sunday’s surgery.

ILLINOIS FOOTBALL STANDOUT BOBBY ROUNDTREE SUFFERS SEVERE SPINAL INJURY IN SWIMMING ACCIDENT, SCHOOL SAYS

Illinois Fighting Illini defensive lineman Bobby Roundtree (97) was injured in a swimming accident over the weekend. (Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Illinois Fighting Illini defensive lineman Bobby Roundtree (97) was injured in a swimming accident over the weekend. (Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Roundtree suffered the severe spinal injury during a swimming accident near his Florida home over the weekend, the school said. No other details about the incident were released.

“Bobby Roundtree is exactly what you want in a student-athlete," Illinois coach Lovie Smith said. “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, who is from Largo, Fla., is entering his junior year. He played in 24 games during his first two seasons.

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Last season, Roundtree finished fifth in the Big Ten Conference with 8.5 sacks. He also had 67 total tackles.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.