By Claire Salinas
Helping a friend was a natural response for Calob Leindecker. What he didn’t know was that helping is what would cause him to become an amputee. One night back in 2008, after playing in a summer scrimmage with his high school football team, Leindecker was called to help a pull out a friend’s truck that had gotten stuck on a log on the levy.
As Leindecker was hooking up the two trucks, his friend accidentally put his truck into reverse rather than drive, and it came crashing towards him. Thankfully he was able to move in time to avoid death; unfortunately, his left leg was still crushed.
There was a three-day period after the accident during which the doctors thought they may be able to save Leindecker’s leg. It was during this time that Leindecker met the amputees that would spark a flame of determination in him to get back to sports after the amputation.
“I remember the first guy I met had run a marathon,” he recalled. “I remember thinking, ‘If he can run a marathon then I can for damn sure do anything’.”
Before the accident Leindecker played football at Parkview Baptist High School, but getting back on the field to play didn’t happen with a snap of his fingers.
“He had a one hundred percent skin graft and you can’t use a skin graft with prosthetics,” explained Leindecker’s mother, Tressy. “So, he had to have multiple surgeries and he couldn’t get his prosthetic until about eight months after the accident because he couldn’t wear one.”
When Leindecker finally got his prosthetic he was eventually able to start playing football again. Getting back on the field was a bit of a symbolic victory for him as the Eagles made it back to the 3A championship for a game in The Mercedes-Benz SuperDome – the last venue that Leindecker played in before his accident.
“The Superdome was the last place he played with two legs,” said Tressy. “When he came back senior year his team made it back to the dome again and it was the last place he played football.”
After graduating high school Leindecker took up wakeskating and also went back to PBS to help coach football. It was during that time when he was discovered, through social media, Adaptive Action Sports, who asked him to come attend one of the snowboarding camps for amputees.
Little did Leindecker know that saying yes to this opportunity would snowball into an entirely new experience for him.
“They said there’s a competition this weekend [after the camp] so he did it and won,” said Tressy. “They asked if he wanted to come back to do a competition in Tahoe and he went and won that too.”
Afterwards, Leindecker ended up moving to Colorado to train with his snowboarding coach and his coach’s girlfriend, Amy Purdy – a paralympic snowboarder and a contestant on Season 19 of Dancing With the Stars.
“He’s an adrenaline junkie. He wants to do it and he doesn’t stop. He’s not a quitter.”
Purdy is a bilateral amputee, which means she lost both her legs. Meeting her, Leindecker became even more inspired than before.
“I felt inspired riding with her everyday,” said Leindecker. “I always thought, ‘If she can do something I better be able to do it’.”
Leindecker was ranked fifth in the nation and ninth in the world as he continued to train for the Paralympics until an accident on the slopes interrupted his plans.
“Most jumps are made 50 feet high off the ground,” he said. “I went to hit a double jump in snowboarding, and I overshot the landing. Since my prosthetic doesn’t have the give that a regular leg and ankle does I basically blew up my femur.”
At the time, Leindecker had to go through emergency surgery and temporarily give up on his training. But after giving himself ample time to recover he estimates that he should be ready to return to the training center by next August.
“He’s an adrenaline junkie,” Tressy said. “He wants to do it and he doesn’t stop. He’s not a quitter.”
As part of his rehab from the second accident, Leindecker returned home to Baton Rouge where he continued wakeskating and coaching football.
Nowadays, he makes many things look easy, but behind the scenes, being an amputee can be quite a challenge.
“A normal person wakes up in the middle of the night and goes to the bathroom,” He explained. “For me it’s more of a chore.”
Despite the challenges he faces Leindecker continues to persevere in the sports he enjoys.
Although wakeskating is still a sport that does not yet have a category for amputees, Leindecker continues to hone and perfect his skills with the hopes of being a pioneer for amputees in the sport. He recently competed in the Monster Energy WWA Wake Park Triple Crown competition in Lafayette.
He also does motivational speaking and has recently accepted a position as an assistant football coach at Dunham High School. While juggling the rigors of coaching high school football, Leindecker is studying kinesiology at Southeastern Louisiana University and also has plans to continue his motivational speaking for the rest of his life.
He serves as an inspiration to many, but for him it feels like a natural extension of who he is rather than a goal he tries to meet.
“My goal never really started out to be to motivate anybody,” he explained. “I don’t say anything to motivate my team. As far as I know it’s just the way I bring myself out.”
The most important thing that Leindecker thinks people can learn from his story: “Take nothing for granted.”