Jenks High School head football coach Allan Trimble made public last week that he has been diagnosed with ALS – amyotrophic lateral sclerosis – also commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. With his announcement has come an outpouring of support, not only from those within the Jenks Trojans football family, but throughout the entire region.
We may know now why a month ago Trimble announced his retirement from coaching, only to rescind his resignation three days later. He said at the time that he was battling some health challenges and thought it might be best to spend more time with his family, but through the encouragement of his immediate family, he returned to coaching because that’s where his passion is and ultimately would make dealing with his health issues easier.
If indeed he did want to retire, who could blame him? Trimble, 52, has achieved more than any other high school football coach has ever done in this state. His team has won 13 state championships in his 20 seasons at Jenks, compiling a record of 224-35, and he has already been inducted in the Oklahoma Coaches Association Hall of Fame.
Trimble has said in media reports that he has experienced some form of symptoms of ALS for about two years. ALS is a disease that attacks nerve cells that control voluntary movement. The life expectancy of someone diagnosed with ALS is generally three to five years, although there have been many exceptions, including a couple I know of personally, I’ll mention later.
Coach Trimble and I became friends many years ago, when I was hired to do the play-by-play for the Jenks football games on local television, and co-host his weekly coach’s show. I was impressed with him as a football coach long before I met him; just based on the amazing record he was compiling at Jenks, but became even more impressed once I got to meet him.
When I began working with Trimble, I immediately came to love and respect the man that was more than a high school football coach.
The first time we had lunch together, he asked if he could pray over the meal and asked if he could pray about anything going on in my life. He exemplified to me someone who not only set a good example with his words, but spoke it with his actions.
I watched the way he handled his football team in practices and in games. I noted that he didn’t use the same salty language other coaches used. He proved that as much as he loved football, he loved his family even more. Trimble has always been the consummate Christian coach that not only wore his religion on his shirtsleeve, but lived it each and every day.
That’s what makes it so difficult to believe that someone still in the prime of his life and career, someone who is a mighty leader of young men, who has a huge, positive impact on the lives of his players and many around him, will now have to face the battle of and for his life.
But, we live in an imperfect world, and disease has no care as to who you are, what you do or what you believe.
My cousin Susan Rogers battled ALS for seven years. Susan was a very bright and intelligent young woman, who loved education. She became a teacher, but never stopped learning; earning both a master’s degree and eventually a doctorate.
She was loved and respected by many, but ultimately as the disease progressed she was cared for by her mother, three brothers and home nursing aids. Susan was never married.
When I was a member of the television team that hosted the local cut-ins during the MDA Telethons, I became acquainted with a local man named Vic Poole. When I first met Vic he seemed pretty healthy and able bodied, but over the five years I was a part of the telethon, Vic would come back each year to be on the program, and each time I saw him ALS had taken yet another bit of his ability away. Amazingly, Vic lived nine years with ALS.
Trimble, his family, and his church family are praying for a miracle. I’ll be praying right along with them. But, through it all, I know he will battle this with the same steadfastness in his faith that has carried him this far in his life, and he will continue to be a great example to everyone with whom he comes in contact. That’s the Allan Trimble I know.
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Jeff Brucculeri is a freelance writer and broadcaster. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him on Twitter @JeffBSports.