By Jim Halley, USA TODAY High School Sports
Allan Trimble has been coaching football at Jenks, Okla., for 20 years. His teams have won 13 state championships, including the past four titles in the state’s largest classification.
Coaching can be tiring, but usually after a season, Trimble bounced back. Not so this time. After his team defeated Broken Arrow 35-14 for the 2015 6A-I state title, he thought it might be time to retire. On June 4, he did, only to think better of it and unretire three days later.
“I had been eligible for retirement for a little over a year,” Trimble said. “One of the main factors was my energy level. A lot of times you go through a tough season and you’re exhausted as you should be, but then by the time you go through Christmas break, you get refreshed. I didn’t really get that this past year.
“My last daughter was going to be going to college, so there were a lot of things that pointed that it might be neat to have extra time. Then, after telling everybody I was going to retire, the timing of it was bad. It was not what was best for my team or my assistant coaches who had committed so much of their time. I thought better of it.”
A month after changing his mind, Trimble found out why he was so tired. He was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a progressive neurodegenerative disease commonly known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease. ALS affects the motor neurons in the brain and spinal cord that control muscles. The disease is incurable and most ALS patients have a life expectancy of two to three years.
Instead of backing away, Trimble is going full throttle, coaching as long as he can while detailing his fight with a blog on trimblestrong.org. He brings his Trojans into a big matchup Friday night with No. 15 Union (Tulsa) at the University of Tulsa. The game, known as the Backyard Bowl, pits two fierce rivals that have been champions of the state’s largest classification every year since 1996.
“Maybe it’s God’s blessing to be a part of another season,” Trimble said. “It’s been a sentimental journey. I haven’t felt well for a while. I’ve had symptoms of (ALS) for two years but they couldn’t pinpoint what was going on. They found it out through a process of elimination. That’s the case for most ALS patients.”
On Tuesday, Trimble drove the team bus after a JV football game at Bixby. On Friday morning, the day of the Backyard Bowl, he will talk with grade school and kindergarten children in Jenks as part of the school system’s Dynamic Dads program.