While Allan Trimble himself frequently made references to the terrible inevitability of his situation, there was no less of a shock when the confirmation of his death was provided by a Jenks Public Schools official.
Trimble announced his ALS diagnosis 3½ years ago. On Sunday, at the age of 56 and as the most successful coach in the history of Oklahoma high school football, he passed away.
He will be remembered as having been universally loved, liked and respected, and for having been completely genuine and unwavering in his Christian lifestyle, and for having been unbelievably successful as the overseer of the Jenks dynasty.
In 22 seasons as the Trojans’ head coach, there was a record of 242-41 and 13 state championships. During his first six seasons as the head coach, Jenks was 79-4 with six state titles. Those teams won by an average score of 41-12 and recorded 12 shutouts.
Trimble’s 1997 Jenks team is regarded as having been the greatest of all Trojan teams, and possibly the greatest in state history, regardless of classification.
When they were sophomores, the current Trojan seniors were coached by Trimble. On Saturday in Edmond, as Jenks clashes with unbeaten Owasso for the Class 6AI championship, those Trojan seniors undoubtedly will commit their efforts to the memory of their former coach.
I first became aware of Trimble more than 40 years ago — when Allan and my brother were football teammates in Cleveland, Oklahoma. Trimble was an offensive lineman who went on to play at Northeastern State in Tahlequah.
After Trimble became the Jenks head man in 1996, I actually got to know him and witnessed the class and consistency that defined his career. He had a sweet, tremendous life with wife Courtney and daughters Tori and Tylar. Each of the Trimble-coached Trojans was on a first-name basis with Trimble’s family members.
As Trimble spoke at Asbury United Methodist Church in January, his remarks were heartbreaking and inspirational.
Making reference to a Bible verse (Psalm 90:12), he said, “I am trying to number my days, and I realize these opportunities that I have right now are quickly fleeting.
“My voice is getting weak . . . so let me give you some old football coach thoughts: Quit living life as if the purpose of your life is to arrive safely at your funeral. Set your goals and dreams so high and so eternal that they are destined to fail without God’s help.”
Before he retired in 2018, Trimble became the first active high school coach to be selected for membership in the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame. During a Hall of Fame lunch event in Oklahoma City, Barry Switzer hopped onto the stage so that he could be photographed with Trimble.
For a Tulsa World column, I described it as having been “a convergence of football kings.” Switzer was eager to meet Trimble for the first time. Trimble was elated to have that moment with Switzer, describing the former Oklahoma coach as “my idol.”
“To hear him speak now, I know without a doubt why he won,” Switzer said of Trimble that day. “It wasn’t because he had good players. It was because he was the guy at the top, who led the team.”
Trimble seemed moved by Switzer’s praise.
“Thank you, Coach,” he said.
On occasion, I do a little iPhone photography for the World. The shot I got of Trimble and Switzer is my favorite.
As a 10th-grader, Trimble was baptized at Cleveland Church of Christ. On a nearly daily basis before he was diagnosed with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease), he was involved in Bible study sessions with friends. Those sessions continued after the diagnosis, and he was involved in the creation of the Trimble Strong Foundation that provides assistance to churches and schools.
As a football man, Trimble was at the center of the fantastic Jenks-Union rivalry and will be hailed as having been the greatest winner in the history of Oklahoma high school football.
His reach extended far beyond football, though, and that’s why so many people are hurting on this Sunday.