With equal parts compassion and competitiveness, teacher and coach, wisdom and magic, Allan Trimble forged Jenks into a high school football force of nature.
Over 22 years, Trimble built the Trojans into an almost incomprehensible powerhouse, winning 13 state championships and 242 games.
But Thursday, Trimble stepped away from the game that has given him so much.
“I have to slow down a little bit, and it my heart, I feel like me slowing down and putting someone else in this position will help aid our football program to a higher level,” Trimble said. “I mean, that’s the bottom line. That’s the bottom line.”
Trimble, 54, announced his retirement, effective June 30, because of the cumulative and heinous effects of ALS. He was at times overcome with emotion, not because of the finality of the disease, but because he doesn’t want to leave the game he’s loved every day since the seventh grade, because he doesn’t want to be away from his players, because he’ll miss the everyday interactions with his coaching staff.
“I don’t think I was sad. I’m very sentimental,” he said. “But for me, it’s not sad. … So I would be foolish to be sad. But sentimental? Yeah, pretty sentimental. So yeah, it’s been—you couldn’t script it. You couldn’t even make it up. It’s been such a blessing.”
“It’s a difficult thing,” Trimble said. “I told our players yesterday that I think I started playing football back in 1976, I think. That’s a long time ago. I don’t think I’ve ever missed a season. I’ve either played, coached or something probably since seventh grade. I think. I can’t really remember that far back. So to take a step and walk out and walk away from what that looks like, I mean, it’s a tough one. And then I have to balance that with what is best for this football program here at Jenks.”
Trimble announced the summer of 2016 that he had ALS and began immediate treatment to slow the disease’s inevitable outcome. He coached the Trojans for two more seasons as his condition slowly, progressively declined.
He knew this day would come, but that didn’t make it any easier.
“I mean, let’s face it, on my greatest day, I was not very athletic,” Trimble said. “But, now — I am not very athletic. I can’t get around very good. This program deserves someone who can go full speed. So that balance right there has been the tricky part for me.”
Trimble said as he’s losing his mobility, he’s losing his independence. He requires almost round the clock assistance, and the monster that is Jenks football must drive ahead without him.
“This,” he said, “is a challenging day. … I was gonna try to come in here and put my tough-guy face on, but I don’t know if I’m gonna be able to do that today.”
Trimble wears his faith on his sleeve. He cares deeply for people. He loves his school. He’s passionate about his community. And Jenks football, right behind his family, is his life.
“What makes it tough is I’ve got coaches who have carried the load for me for a couple years, and I’m forever indebted to that,” he said. “Great men. … We have great men who are great people for our kids. I don’t want to leave that. I mean, I don’t know anything else I would do. But I think in my heart that it’s time to get some new air in the sails, to put a man in my position that physically and emotionally can grind it out. So that’s kind of what I based my decision on.”
Trimble said he would stay retired the requisite 60 days, but hoped his successor might ask him back in a supporting role come September. He offered assistance in the equipment room or grading film. Tapping the mind of a football savant like Trimble — a consultant title, maybe, or an analyst, or perhaps head coach emeritus — would be a smart move by the next coach.
“Why wouldn’t I do that?” Trimble said. “It’s what I enjoy doing.”
He said he also intends to focus on his foundation, Trimble Strong, moving forward.
With a 242-41 record and 17 state championship game appearances and 13 gold ball trophies, Trimble’s legacy will be something much less tangible. Just look at the generations of young adults who have studied under the master himself.
“The legacy Allan Trimble is leaving stretches far beyond the football field,” Jenks superintendent Stacey Butterfield said in a press release. “Although his name will always be associated with winning, his most important work was done by positively impacting the lives of his players and setting an incredible example of humility, courage, and perseverance. He has been an inspiration to our entire community, and the number of lives he has touched with his kindness and generosity is simply remarkable.”
Columnist John E. Hoover is co-host of “Further Review with Hoover & Rew” and can be heard every weekday on The Franchise in Tulsa from noon to 3 p.m. with co-host Lauren Rew. In Oklahoma City, catch him Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday mornings at 10:25 and every Friday afternoon at 4:05. Listen at fm107.7 in OKC, fm107.9/am1270 in Tulsa, on The Franchise app, or click the “Listen” tab on The Franchise home page. Visit his personal page at johnehoover.com.