Jerry Haflich busted chin straps as a hard-hitting linebacker in the early 1980s for Sacramento State, where he gleefully crashed into fullbacks.
He suffered cracked ribs and chipped teeth – when he wasn’t getting kicked elsewhere by an angry bull – while on the rodeo circuit during his 20s, determined to prove man could conquer agitated beast.
So what made Haflich step away as the American River College football coach to collect his bearings?
At a fundraiser for ARC in 2010, Haflich was struck in the forehead by a wayward club that got away from a golfer’s backswing. Haflich has maintained his sense of humor about the mishap, but it’s a blow that has had lingering effects, including vertigo, which has baffled doctors.
While he continues to work with doctors, Haflich says he will take at least a season off from coaching and has turned over the program over to longtime assistant Jon Osterhout.
“It took a leisure sport to really knock me down,” Haflich joked. “Isn’t that the funniest thing? But that shook something loose in me, that blow. The goal with all these checkups I’ve had is to reconnect some of the processing that I struggle with, to balance the nervous stimulus, to recognize that when I’m not moving, I shouldn’t feel like I’m spinning.
“I missed too many practices last fall. I wasn’t very good on game day. So I needed to pull to the curb of life, take a deep breath and figure this out.”
Haflich, 53, said he is motivated by his family – wife Rosanne and their three grown children – to lead a quality life, and they all know how much it pains him to not coach. Haflich marvels at the drive of his father, Jerry Sr., who on his recent 80th birthday took a Harley-Davidson ride for the sheer thrill of it.
“I want to be my dad,” Haflich said. “I want to take a Harley ride at 80. I want to do things with family, be healthy, be productive, be happy.”
Behind hard work, Haflich elevated ARC into a state power and wants to resume the grind. He continues to teach physical education at ARC, but the bulk of the football duties now rest on Osterhout’s shoulders.
Said Osterhout: “Jerry’s as tough as leather, but he needs to take care of himself. The program will be here waiting for him.”
“I’ve enjoyed every day of my coaching life, 30 years,” Haflich said. “God willing, I want more. But with brain injuries, you never know. I want another 50 years of life. That’s my goal, if I don’t wear this old carcass out. And if I coach another day, I’ll love it. If I don’t, I can step back and be proud.”