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Hall of Honor - A talented, hard worker

Darold Thompson (35) had a good vertical, which paid off in basketball during his playing days in 1953 through 1955. Submitted Photo1 / 2
Jerry Fox (snapper) and Darold Thompson were a good tandem as a punting unit. Submitted Photo2 / 2

When Darold Thompson was two years old, he suffered what doctors said was as gruesome an injury as they have ever seen.

The injury, which was caused when his arm was pulled all the way through a Maytag wringer washer in his southwest Fargo home, was so severe that it ripped all the muscle away from his chest.

Obviously, during his recovery through the years, it was pretty much thought Thompson would not be able to compete on an athletic field.

But not so fast.

It was work with a basic rope which enabled Thompson to eventually become one of the best Detroit Lakes athletes of his time, as he excelled in football, basketball and track and field, before graduating in 1955.

His ability to defy the odds after such a horrific injury is an inspiration to all young athletes and a path on which he earned the nickname, "Horse."

Thompson will be honored after a glorious DLHS athletic career from 1953-55, when he is inducted into the third Laker Hall of Honor class, with the ceremony to be held Friday and Saturday, Oct. 5-6.

"He was just one tough, tough player," said Thompson's football teammate, Jerry Fox. "He was just a hard-working and tough person. But he was very coachable and he showed up every day ready to work and ready to do it well."

Using hard work to

become the best

Hard work has certainly been no stranger throughout Thompson's life.

It's been that hard-work ethic which has brought Thompson good fortunes, especially during his time as a Laker athlete.

"High school didn't only help build my brain, it helped build my body, as well," Thompson said. "I'm what my wife, Arlene (who passed away in September of 2010) calls a 'workaholic'."

It was another injury related to the one he suffered as a two-year-old which put Thompson on the path to DL greatness.

As a seventh grader playing football, a collision to the side where he suffered his initial injury, tore lose all the scar tissue and muscle.

"When that happened, my entire side turned black," Thompson said. "But then it started healing and building muscle on that side of my body."

Thompson's doctor at the time, Dr. Bill Dodds, recommended to Thompson to start climbing the rope in the old DLHS gym backwards, to strengthen his chest muscles.

As usual, Thompson took on the challenge and met it head on.

"Climbing that rope really helped me build muscle back up in my chest and that later helped me become a pole vaulter," Thompson said.

Thus was born Thompson's budding track career.

Urban "Benny" Benewitz saw promise in the young Thompson as a hurdler, something which the Laker never had done.

After learning the skills of hurdling as an eighth grader, Benewitz suggested he compete in a track meet during a spring day in Moorhead.

"Before then, I had never taken part in a track meet, so that was my first time ever even attending one," Thompson said. "I was on the outside lane for the low hurdle race and by the time the final stretch came, I was near the leader."

Thompson cleared every low hurdle, but after the last one, he stopped and started walking off the track.

"Benny yelled at me asking what I was doing and that I needed to finish," Thompson laughed. "So I jumped back on the track and finished the race, still taking third place.

"After that day, I never ran the low hurdles again. It was one of my most embarrassing moments."

But that didn't stop Thompson from pursuing three other events in the high jump, pole vault and high hurdles.

He eventually became one of DL's prized athletes by qualifying for state in the high jump during both his junior and senior seasons, while making region in pole vault those two same years.

By the time he graduated in 1955, Thompson held the school record in the high hurdles, which lasted 13 years, and the high jump, which he held for a dozen years.

He tied for second in the state high jump as a junior and took silver as a senior, as well. Thompson used the "Texas Roll" technique for his high jump, which is going headfirst, rather than the modern Fosbury Flop, where jumpers take it backwards.

Jumpers also landed in saw dust as "cushion," as well.

Thompson had a broad jump of 21-0 and a high jump of 6-3.25. During a meet in Waubun, he hit his personal-best pole vault of 12-0.

"I was consistently pole vaulting at 11-6 and 11-8," Thompson said. "My goal was to break Wally Walbaum's (a past Laker Hall of Honor inductee) record of 12-2.

"Although I never beat Wally's record, I took first in every meet but one."

When Thompson pole vaulted, he always attracted onlookers, since he was unusually big for a vaulter at 195 pounds.

"When I was pole vaulting in a meet in Frazee, there was a bunch of people watching me," Thompson said. "I finally realized the reason they were was because you could hear a big thud when I hit the sawdust pit. I learned how to roll when I hit."

His speed for a bigger athlete was also a bit unusual. But again, it was his hard-work ethic which enabled his speed.

During his freshman year, he took an extra subject, so by the time he was a senior, he would have his last hour of school free.

Instead of just taking that time off, Thompson ran home and back, which totaled five miles.

"I ran five miles every night and that was why I was fast," Thompson said.

Which directly led to his success on the gridiron, where he earned his longtime nickname, "Horse."

Thompson started playing as a sophomore during the 1953 season, under then head coach Marv Helling.

During that time, Thompson played with his older brother, Arville, who was known as a hard hitter for the Lakers.

Helling held a tackling drill, where if the tackling dummy would be hit hard enough, a bell would ring.

First up was Arville.


"Then Coach Helling said, 'Darold! You're up!' I was like, 'Well, it's do or die. I better make this ring.'"

Darold made the Thompson name proud, as he unleashed on the dummy and made the bell ring.

"Coach Helling said, 'This kid works like a horse,'" Thompson recalled. "And that name stuck."

Thompson played safety his sophomore and junior seasons on defense, and defensive tackle his senior year, and played behind Laker Hall of Honor inductee Rich Borstad, who anchored the unit at linebacker.

The "Horse" kept true to his nickname, as he played every single down his sophomore through senior seasons.

"You betcha," Thompson said when asked if he liked to tackle. "I also did the punting and kicking, where Jerry Fox was my long snapper. I never had a bad snap and never had a bad punt."

As a 6-2, 195-pound athlete, Thompson also was a force on the basketball court. During his seventh and eighth grade years, his team would scrimmage Holy Rosary every Saturday afternoon.

Even though he wasn't as tall as most centers, his vertical due to his strong legs made him one of the top rebounders in the area.

"Having an older brother like Arville, you needed to be strong, too," Thompson said. "I didn't have many points, but it was always in my head, if there was a loose ball, it was mine."

He credits DL head basketball coach John Downs for being a big influence on his prep career, as well.

When Thompson graduated in 1955, he and Arlene married a month after graduation.

He passed up a partial scholarship to play at the South Dakota University to work at Fargo Detroit Bottling.

Thompson eventually worked at Fairmont Dairy in DL and Moorhead, before raising turkeys for 21 years, then retiring 12 years ago.

Arlene and Thompson have five kids: Doyle, Mark, Barton and Darla.

"I appreciated my time in the Detroit Lakes school," Thompson said. "I just love living in Detroit Lakes."

Thompson will be a Laker forever, as well.

(Mark Hagen of the Hall of Honor Committee contributed to this article.)

Brian Wierima
Detroit Lakes Newspapers Sports Editor for the last 15 years. St. Cloud State University graduate, who hails from Deer Creek, MN.