Chris Carlson simultaneously led a blessed and troubled life.
Carlson, an adoring father to two young daughters and a man best known in Dickinson for his athletic accomplishments, died tragically of an apparent suicide in his home Sunday, family and friends said Monday.
“We all knew he struggled with issues and things of that nature,” said Kyle Carlson, his younger brother. “He tried his hardest to work through it.”
The son of longtime Dickinson High School track and field coach Jack Carlson, Chris Carlson was described by many as one of the best athletes Dickinson has ever produced.
Among his many athletic accomplishments, Chris Carlson was named the North Dakota Associated Press Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association’s Male Athlete of the Year in 1989, the year he graduated from DHS.
An all-state quarterback and a standout pole vaulter who helped the Midgets track team his father coached to the 1989 state championship, Chris Carlson was also a standout on the basketball court and the baseball field.
“Everything came naturally to him,” Kyle Carlson said. “He was good at everything.”
Former Dickinson High School football coach Roger Stone said Chris Carlson was a rare athlete and a gifted student.
“He probably was one of the better athletes that I ever coached, and one of the better athletes that I personally have ever seen come out of Dickinson High School,” Stone said. “He wasn’t real big in stature, but he was very tough physically.”
Chris Carlson played quarterback at North Dakota State after a standout high school career as a quarterback and defensive back for Dickinson teams that reached the Class A state semifinals his junior and senior year.
At NDSU, Chris Carlson backed up All-America quarterback Chris Simdorn and was a member of the 1990 NCAA Division II national championship team.
A successful athletic career was made even better by great grades in the classroom, which led him to a successful professional career.
He was an independent landman for Diamond Resources, Inc., and had started Carlson Energy Resources, a mineral and equipment leasing company.
However, Chris Carlson’s family and friends said he had personal issues that contributed to his death.
“He had his demons and they eventually caught up to him,” said John Jessen, a classmate of Chris Carlson’s who became one of his best friends through their shared athletic experiences.
“Without a doubt, the most special time in my life growing up was being a part of athletics with Chris. He meant a lot to a lot of us. Not just myself, but to a lot of us that competed with him.”
Longtime Dickinson High School coach Dave Michaelson, a family friend of the Carlsons, coached Chris Carlson and his three brothers in multiple sports.
“He had a great personality. To me, it was very obvious that he had a great sense of humor. He would talk sports a lot,” Michaelson said. “The one thing, just looking back, that I wish we could have connected more on was some of the troubles he had. To me, he always had a real positive outlook.”
Stone said it appeared Carlson was doing well when the two last spoke.
“You sit and you wonder about things and wish that someone along the line, he could have found someone to talk to when he needed to,” Stone said.
Word of Chris Carlson’s death spread quickly Sunday and Monday.
Hundreds posted messages Monday on his Facebook page and on Bisonville.com, an NDSU athletics discussion forum website where he had posted nearly 3,000 items under the tag “Notorious” since 2005.
Funeral services for Carlson will be at noon Friday at St. John Evangelical Lutheran Church in Dickinson followed by interment at St. Patrick’s Cemetery. Visitation will begin at 9 a.m. Friday at the church.