Caledonia community mourns loss of former football player

Former Caledonia standout football player Brandon Tornstrom died at the age of 26. “Addiction doesn’t care who you are,” Caledonia assistant football coach Brent Schroeder said.

Brandon Tornstrom Add.jpg
Former Caledonia football player Brandon Tornstrom (59) walks with his parents, Kelli, left, and Mike during his senior season in the fall of 2014. Tornstrom died on April 16, 2023, at the age of 26.
Contributed / Caledonia High School athletic department

CALEDONIA — The Caledonia football community, which might include the entire town, is mourning the passing of former Warriors player Brandon Tornstrom.

The 26-year-old Tornstrom, a 2015 Caledonia grad, died on April 16. As written in his obituary, Tornstrom "lost his life to addiction after a hard-fought battle."

“Addiction doesn’t care who you are,” Caledonia assistant football coach Brent Schroeder said. “And I think it’s kind of motivated us as teachers and staff and coaches that we have to continue to reach out for resources and reach out to the community. If you are seeing someone struggling, it doesn’t matter if they are in high school or out of high school … we want to continue to be there for our kids.”

Schroeder was the head coach when Tornstrom played offensive and defensive line for the Warriors from 2012-14.

As a sophomore, Tornstrom was a reserve on the Class AA state championship team in 2012. He was a starter as a senior in 2014 when the Warriors reached the Class AA state semifinals.


“I remember him coming off the field, exhausted and giving it his all,” Schroeder said. “That’s what you respect out of a young man, when he comes off the field like that. That’s my last football memory of him.”

Tornstrom's coaches and friends have fond memories of him.

Austin Bauer was a classmate of Tornstrom’s and a fellow 2015 grad. He was the starting quarterback for the Warriors during their senior year. Bauer, who went on to play college basketball at Bethany Lutheran College in Mankato, is now a teacher and an assistant football coach at Caledonia.

“We were very close in high school,” Bauer said.

Tornstrom was 6-foot-2 and 260 pounds as a senior. Despite his stature, Bauer said he had a gentle demeanor.

“He was never a violent person, except on the football field,” Bauer said. “... He had a pretty dark sense of humor. He made light of the darker things in life.”

Tornstrom was part of a football program that has been the most successful in the entire state over the past 20 years. Since 2008, Caledonia has won 10 Class AA state championships. That includes three straight from 2010-12 and five straight from 2015-19, which was part of a 71-game winning streak.

“Brandon was a heck of a player for us,” Caledonia current head coach Carl Fruechte said. “He was one of our best, extremely dedicated, hardworking, listened and did well.”


Fruechte was the head coach when the Warriors won state titles in 2007 and ‘08 and from 2016-2019. He was an assistant the years in between.

“It’s not always the quarterback or running back that’s the leader,” Fruechte said. “The unsung heroes in my humble opinion are the O-linemen and the D-linemen and Brandon was one of those (players) who did a great job.”

Tornstrom still lived in Caledonia and worked in La Crosse, Wis. He enjoyed powerlifting and was still involved with Caledonia athletics. He helped train players at a local gym owned by former Warriors player Zach Gran.

“He was awesome with our youth, even when he was going through his struggles,” Fruechte said.

Bauer said the first drug Tornstrom got addicted to was methamphetamine.

“It’s obviously a brutal drug to get into,” Bauer said.

Many in the Caledonia football community were aware of Tornstrom’s struggle with addiction. Fruechte said there was no judgment of Tornstrom, only compassion.

“He was clean for a long time,” Fruechte said. “And then the last six weeks, the stuff just got back. It’s a bear.”


Tornstrom has a younger brother, Jordan, who is a junior at Caledonia and was a two-way starter for the Warriors football team during the fall of 2022.

“He has a lot of the same mannerisms that Brandon did,” Bauer said. “It’s almost freaky, the same gentle giant type. And despite being very large men, they have little giggles, which is hilarious.”

Tornstrom also has two younger sisters, including Katie, who was a key player on Caledonia’s Class AA state runner-up team in girls basketball in 2019.

Bauer admits he is one of many people in the Caledonia community struggling with the loss of his friend. He is also grateful for all of the support.

“His parents, Mike and Kelli, made it very clear that if they can use his story to help other people with drug addiction, they’d love to,” Bauer said.

Guy N. Limbeck is a Rochester native who has been working at a daily newspaper since 1981. He has worked at the Post Bulletin since 1999. Readers can reach Guy at 507-285-7724 or
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