ROGERS, Ark. — Allan Trimble walked up and down the sideline during the Southwest Elite 7-on-7 Showcase earlier this month, shouting out directions and encouragement to his Jenks (Okla.) High players like nothing was wrong.
“Even though he doesn’t act like it,” said Jenks senior and Arkansas commit Jordon Curtis, “We still know that it’s there.”
Trimble — whose record 13 state championships in 20 seasons as Jenks’ head coach have made him an Oklahoma legend — was diagnosed earlier this month with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a devastating disease that kills motor neurons in the brain and spinal cord and causes progressive muscle deterioration.
There is no known cure for ALS.
But Trimble — who will coach this season despite the diagnosis — said that his players’ support is what has helped him keep a positive attitude.
“It’s really carried me,” Trimble said. “It’s tough, tough news. Just the support from the players and the coaches, the community, it’s probably what’s getting us through right now.
“The amazing love and support that everybody has for each other here makes it a really special place.”
A remarkable 65 percent of Trimble’s seasons leading the Jenks program have ended with state championships in Oklahoma’s highest football classification, but his legacy can also be measured in the dozens of Trojans who have received college football scholarships.
Curtis committed to Arkansas in June as a cornerback, but is also a standout offensive threat for the Trojans.
Asked what makes Curtis special, Trimble emphasized his “diversity” on the field.
“I’ve always thought in my opinion, he’s got all the tools to be a great matchup defensive back,” Trimble said. “He’s got good length for his height and great acceleration. Good instincts.
“But he also has an amazing knack in the open field with the football, too. He’s a great offensive player. He can catch the ball. He’s super elusive. He’s got that extra gear.”
Expect to see Curtis excel on both sides of the ball this season, as Jenks chases its fifth-consecutive state championship. But the Trojan players have a little more to play for this year after Trimble’s diagnosis.
According to the ALS Association, average life expectancy for a person with ALS “averages about two to five years from the time of diagnosis.”
“It’s heartbreaking,” said Louis Curtis, Jordan’s father and himself a former Division I college football player. “Coach Trimble is a good man. A lot of people know about the accolades that he’s accomplished on the football field, but they don’t know about the stuff like the math tutoring at 6 a.m. He does that on his own time. He’s very spiritual.
“To hear that he had ALS was a shock. It was heart wrenching. But the way he is and the way his spirit is, he made everybody else feel comfortable about the whole situation.”