ALLAN TRIMBLE

Former Jenks football coach Allan Trimble now is 30 months removed from his ALS diagnosis. BILL HAISTEN/Tulsa World


During my senior year of high school in Texas, my dad accepted a job offer in Oklahoma.

My family moved to Cleveland in Pawnee County. One of my younger brothers was a wide receiver and defensive back for the Tigers high school football squad.

One of his teammates was an offensive lineman named Allan Trimble, so I’ve been aware of Trimble for a long time. After Trimble became the Jenks coach and drove the Trojans program to 13 state titles in 22 seasons, I got to know him on a professional basis.

I thought I knew Allan pretty well — until last week. Until the Tulsa World’s Barry Lewis reported on Trimble’s appearance at Asbury United Methodist Church.

I didn’t believe it possible that my respect for Trimble could be any higher, but it is now.

Speaking to a luncheon audience of 300, Trimble’s remarks were equal parts uplifting and devastating.

As he is the most accomplished high school football coach in state history, Trimble’s testimony and example always had value.

Now, 30 months after Trimble’s ALS diagnosis, and as the constant use of a wheelchair has become a fairly recent development, and as there is increasing evidence of the cruelty of Lou Gehrig’s disease on this championship man, his voice packs more punch than ever before.

Addressing his Asbury listeners, while making reference to Psalm 90:12, Trimble 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.”

On several occasions since the summer of 2016, I have interviewed Trimble about his ALS challenge. During the first few of those talks, he looked like Allan Trimble. In spite of a monster of a problem, he looked healthy.

From the beginning, Trimble has been blunt about his challenge: “It’s pretty surreal,” he told the Tulsa World during Jenks’ 2016 preseason camp. “Statistics would tell you that 80 percent of the people diagnosed with this disease are gone in five years. Many of them are gone in three. It’s physically and mentally debilitating.”

On April 12 — the date on which he announced his retirement as the Jenks coach — Trimble was able to walk around the room and converse with staff members, former players and supporters.

As recently as August, when he was in Norman for induction into the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame, he was able to stand at a podium and deliver moving remarks.

On Friday, he was in the wheelchair during the entirety of the Asbury event.

While he contends with ALS, the 55-year-old Trimble and his associates oversee the Trimble Strong Foundation’s campaigns to assist churches and schools. He has been dealt a terrible condition, and yet he seeks opportunities to serve others.

With old friends and new ones, Trimble is involved in Bible study every day. Just for the record, he didn’t become a Christian after ALS crashed into his life. He became a Christian about 40 years ago. As a 10th-grader, he was baptized at Cleveland Church of Christ.

In 1996-2005, Trimble and then-Union coach Bill Blankenship were at the center of an amazing rivalry. Fittingly, Blankenship introduced Trimble to the Asbury church crowd.

“Every time I am with coach Trimble, I leave amazed at his strength,” said Blankenship, now the head man at Owasso. “As this hideous disease tears away at his physical body, his spirit, his sense of humor, his compassion for others and his eternal focus may have never been stronger.

“He challenges me to live with that same strength of purpose.”

For eight months, I’ve had a maddening knee issue. I’ll pout about it on occasion, and then I’ll see someone with much worse circumstances — or I’ll read a Barry Lewis piece on Allan Trimble — and I’m ashamed that I ever pout about anything.

You always read that there is no cure for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), which attacks muscles and targets the basics of life — the abilities to walk, speak and breathe.

On Friday, Trimble provided this grim update: “My diaphragm is getting pretty weak.”

Every time I’ve seen or conversed with Trimble during these past 30 months, I would catch myself thinking, “This guy always wins. Maybe his diagnosis will coincide with a sensational development in new treatments. Maybe he can beat this thing.”

I still hope for that. Allan and Courtney Trimble hope for that. In the meantime, Trimble’s dignity and courage never waver. It’s so incredibly impressive that he was at the ultimate level as a coach, and now he’s at an even higher level as a man.

Bill Haisten

918-581-8397

bill.haisten@tulsaworld.com

Twitter: @billhaisten

Sports Columnist

Bill joined the Tulsa World in 1990. Prior to having become a sports columnist in 2016, he was the only sports writer in Tulsa World history to have covered OU, OSU, the University of Tulsa and Oral Roberts sports on an everyday basis. Phone: 918-581-8397