Jenks High School football coach Allan Trimble has Lou Gehrig’s Disease, he told The Franchise on Thursday night.
Multiple sources told The Franchise on Thursday afternoon that Trimble, 52, informed his coaching staff on Thursday that he has Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, or ALS, a progressive and always fatal neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord.
Trimble later confirmed the news in a telephone interview.
“It’s all right,” he said. “We finally got to the bottom of a couple years of frustration.”
Trimble said the symptoms have been present for about two years “mainly in my left arm. Some in my leg, but mainly in my arm.”
ALS patients first lose motor function in their limbs. According to the ALS website, ALSA.org, as “voluntary muscle action is progressively affected, patients may lose the ability to speak, eat, move and breathe.”
“It’s a gruesome deal,” Trimble said. “They say that 90 percent of the people that get it make it 3-5 years, and the other 10 percent make it a little longer. After visiting with my doctor today, he said, ‘We believe you’ve had it for about two years, and the way your tests look, it’s very possible you may be one of the slower guys.’ ”
Trimble underwent additional testing on Thursday to determine the disease’s progress and acceleration rate and expects to know the results soon.
“My doc is great,” Trimble said. “He said, ‘You need to go live. It’ll probably get you, but it ain’t gonna get you tomorrow. Go live.’ ”
Trimble told his staff he hopes continue to coach as long as possible. He sent an email to 8th through 12th grade Jenks families on Thursday.
“He said he’s gonna work as hard as he can to get past it and that it’s not gonna take him away from coaching in any form, hopefully,” one Jenks senior told The Franchise. “No one expected that. We didn’t know anything about it.”
The senior, who declined to be identified for this story, said no one on the team knew about Trimble’s symptoms.
“He’s just a strong-willed guy,” the player said. “He didn’t want to show us anything to worry about or think maybe something was wrong.”
Trimble said he told his family on Monday, then informed the Jenks school board on Tuesday.
“You wanna talk about ruining a Fourth of July party, man, try telling your parents you’ve got this disease,” Trimble said. “Emotionally, it’s a hard thing to get your get hands around.”
He said he hopes to talk about it further with the football team on Friday.
Trimble said he had been meeting with an ALS specialist in Oklahoma City over the past couple of weeks.
“The goofy thing about ALS is there’s no test for it. It’s a process of elimination,” he said. “They go through literally hundreds of things — ‘You’ve got a vertebrae problem,’ or, ‘There’s a nerve in your wrist we want to look at,’ and they just keep chipping away and chipping away and then they say, ‘You know what? Your body’s messed up.’ ”
Trimble, who has led Jenks to a state record 13 state championships in 20 seasons since replacing Ron Lancaster for the 1996 season, last summer was inducted into the Oklahoma Coaches Association Hall of Fame.
Jenks won state titles under Trimble in 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2003, 2006, 2007, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015.
The Trojans were 11-1 last season and won their fourth consecutive Class 6A state championship. That string is topped only by Trimble’s start to his head coaching career, when he won six straight titles.
In 20 seasons under Trimble, Jenks is 242-35, with nine of those losses counted as forfeits from the 2008 season after Trimble was suspended for eight months that encompassed the 2009 season for OSSAA violations.
Trimble unexpectedly retired on June 4, informing his players at a spring team camp in Springdale, Arkansas, that he would be stepping down effective this month, but then just as suddenly changed his mind, announcing on June 7 that he would continue to coach the Trojans.
“There’s a lot of reasons the Good Lord brought me back to Jenks,” Trimble said. “Many are obvious and many we’ll see in the months to come. But it’s a great community and a great town, and if you’re gonna get sick and go through something like this, Jenks is a heck of a town and a heck of a community to have do it in.”
ALS gained widespread notoriety when baseball great Lou Gehrig revealed he had it in 1939. He lived two years after famously telling a New York crowd at Yankee Stadium that he considered himself the “luckiest man on the face of the earth.”
According to the ALS website, the average life expectancy from the time of diagnosis is 2-5 years, though some patients exceed that. ALSA.org also reports that more than half of all ALS patients live more than three years after diagnosis.
Later Thursday night, Jenks Public Schools issued a statement:
“It is heartbreaking and shocking to learn of Allan Trimble’s diagnosis with ALS,” the statement said. “Over the last 20 years, not only has Coach Trimble reached an unprecedented level of success on the football field, he has made a positive impact in the lives of countless students, and he has helped bring the entire Jenks community together.
“Although there is sadness, we know Coach Trimble will meet this challenge with incredible resolve. There is no doubt the entire Trojan family will rally around Coach Trimble and his family as they journey through this difficult time.
“Coach Trimble will continue in his role as the Head Coach of the Jenks’ football program and he is extremely optimistic and excited about preparing his team for the upcoming season.”