'You might as well embrace it'

Ben Halder spent a handful of days feeling sorry for himself. But that was it. Quickly, he determined it was time to move on.

10-04 ben halder 01 sj.jpg
Byron first-year coach Ben Halder runs his players through drills at a recent practice. Halder lost the lower portion of his left leg in an auto accident in 2005.

Ben Halder spent a handful of days feeling sorry for himself. But that was it. Quickly, he determined it was time to move on.

That's who Halder is: tough, composed, determined. Even while experiencing life-changing events.

"My left leg was amputated (just below the knee) on March 18 (2005)," said the 40-year-old Halder, a former Lake City and Minnesota State, Mankato football star who's now Byron's first-year head coach. "Since then, I've just been living my life. What I tell my football players is, if you can't change it, you might as well embrace it."

For a few harrowing minutes on Feb. 24, 2005, it looked as though the only thing left for Halder to embrace was the afterlife.

An assistant football coach at Marietta (Ohio) College at the time, Halder was driving to Pittsburgh on a recruiting trip. He was traveling over a bridge when he it happened. Halder hit some black ice, skidded, then was literally run over the top of by the trailer portion of a semi.


Almost miraculously, Halder experienced no serious injury, except for that left leg. It was broken and all kinds of complications with it ensued.

Long story short, after multiple surgeries to save the limb, Halder had had enough. It wasn't working. So his doctors left it up to him.

His answer was to remove the lower portion of that left leg.

"It was time to move on," Halder said. "It was time to live a normal life again rather than (continually) being laid up in the hospital."

Making things work

That normal life, for the last 11 years, has included a prosthesis for a left leg. Halder has made things work fine. He does pretty much everything he used to do, though he can't sprint like he once did, and it's a pain to get the prosthesis wet.

He's married with two daughters, and after stints as an assistant football coach at Marietta College and then the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, Halder has found the kind of life he most prefers. It's in Byron, where he's teaching at Byron Elementary school (a digital media class) and coaching the Byron high school football team.

Gone are the sun-up-to-sun-down days and nights he experienced as a college coach. It's a much saner life.


The Lake City native is in a good place.

"It was time for me to re-prioritize some things," Halder said. "Working those kind of hours (as a college coach) is not who I am. I missed a lot of (his kids') soccer games and a lot of stuff.

"And the coaching has been great. I love coaching and making a difference in young people's lives."

Halder has definitely made a difference at Byron. The Bears are winning games, at 3-2 overall going into Friday's game at Kasson-Mantorville.

But his sheer presence has been the biggest thing. That hit home most the first time he showed up at practice in shorts, and his players saw his prosthetic leg. Before then, many of them weren't even aware of his condition.

It drew stares, a few questions and ultimately helped the Byron players build an even greater respect for their new coach.

"Coach is a great example of toughness," Byron junior quarterback Michael Coble said. "The first time we saw (the prosthetic), it made him even stronger to us."

Halder has a message he continually preaches. It's centered around attitude and perseverance.


"Coach could cry about his leg, but he doesn't," Byron senior linebacker and receiver Chad Grube said. "We see him practicing what he preaches. We really appreciate how he relates to us."

What To Read Next
Get Local