BILLINGS — Jeff Bertelsen is really just a gentle giant.
The Wibaux football coach has spent the majority of his adult life giving back to the next generation — and no way is more impactful than his work with Home on the Range, a therapeutic working ranch in western North Dakota.
“We deal with some kids who have been through a lot of trauma, had some tough things happen early in their lives and are working to get through that," Bertelsen said. "They've made some decisions that have put them in unsafe situations, so they get themselves in trouble and end up with us.
"We have about 100 head, so when we weigh and tag calves the kids get to put their initials on the calves each spring."
Bertelsen has been with Home on the Range for 25 years and has changed the lives of hundreds of children. He’s also touched those in the Wibaux community through athletics, where just a few years ago we thought he’d hung it up for good.
“After one full year of no football, I started doing a day per week year two of no football. That turned into the following year to three days and a couple games, then after (his son) Chase had graduated I really had that itch and was a full-time assistant. The last two years I've been the head coach of the 6-Man team," Bertelsen said.
A return to the 8-man game is just what Bertelsen wanted, though.
“I'm not a 6-Man guy. I could not find my place in it. I'm really thrilled our numbers have come up enough for us to safely compete in the 8-Man ranks," Bertelsen said.
Now with Bertelsen’s kids out of the playing ranks, he can dive deeper into his newfound passion — officiating.
“For me, coming from a coaching background almost strictly, I understand what they're looking for and what they want," Bertelsen said. "One of my favorite lines to every coach when they kind of get after me a little bit: 'I never missed a call when I was sitting there either. Every call I made from the bench was perfect, too.' But I get it, so I try to treat the guys the same way I wanted to be treated."