Ken Trimmer jokes he’s been around football for so long that when he first played the sport he wore a leather helmet. But ’s longtime football coach’s achievements—both on and off the field—are nothing to laugh at.
Trimmer, 69, was inducted last month into the New Jersey Scholastic Coaches Association (NJSCA) Hall of Fame’s “Class of 2012.”
In his 48-year career, Trimmer has been involved in five state championships, three as head coach in the last 18 years. His overall record stands at 137 wins, 54 losses.
Trimmer has also coached the junior varsity football team and girls and boys basketball teams at the high school. He retired after more than four decades as a physical education and driver education teacher at JCHS in 2010.
“It’s a tremendous honor. Something that I didn’t expect,” Trimmer said about being honored by the NJSCA.
He credits his success as a coach to having had good mentors.
“It’s like in everything else. You copy what has been successful. I have been a good copier,” he said, adding, “I have a lot of energy. I know I am enthusiastic.”
Plus, he said, he couldn’t have done it without the support of the district, parents and his coaching staff, which consists of several former players.
“Caldwell/West Caldwell supports the football team as well if not better than most communities around,” he said. “When we play an away game we have more fans than the home team.”
JCHS Athletic Director Rich Porfido said he has known Trimmer for seven years and admires his ability to adjust from year to year to the particular group of players on the team.
“Many veteran coaches would remain complacent and say, ‘This worked 20 years ago, so it will again.’ Coach Trimmer on the other hand will work with his entire staff in the off-season to implant a new offense or defense based on the players that are returning for the next season,” Porfido said. “This is best referenced when our team finished 3-7 in 2006 and came back the following year to win the state championship.”
The athletic director said the coach also spends countless hours making sure that athletes are keeping their grades up and behaving in class.
Trimmer graduated from Verona High School in 1960 and went on to Montclair State College where he started for four years as a defensive end and was captain of the squad his senior year. After graduation, he landed a job coaching in Caldwell.
“The kids who were seniors when I first started to coach I believe are 62/63 years old,” Trimmer said. “My grandson’s coming up. I have no idea when I am going to stop coaching because I love every minute of it.”
Aside from coaching the Caldwell Chiefs, Trimmer is game director and past general manager for the North team of the New Jersey North-South All Star Football Classic. Now in its 34th year, the 2012 game will be played June 25 at Kean University. As game director, he’s responsible for raising the $75,000 required to make the match possible.
Trimmer seems to love giving back as much as he loves football.
He is founder and co-director of Leaders for Life, a mentoring program for seventh-grade boys from inner cities. The program’s goals include keeping young men out of gangs while encouraging literacy, leadership and participation in athletics.
This year, 350 kids from Newark, East Orange, Paterson, Camden, Franklin and Trenton will be bussed to Kean for the North-South game, where they will take part in a football clinic, hear motivational talks and have breakfast with the all-stars. For many, it will be their first time stepping foot on a college campus.
“Seventh graders,” Trimmer said. “that’s our key kid because he’s the most likely candidate for the gangs.”
Even closer to the coach's heart is his involvement with St. Rocco’s shelter in Newark. For the past 12 years, with the help of Vero Amici, a local service group, and the Caldwell Chiefs, Trimmer has delivered Christmas gifts to the shelter. The annual holiday party features a Caldwell football player dressed as Santa Claus.
Through local efforts, a television, Xbox and stereo have been purchased for the shelter, as well as such essentials as underwear, jeans, toothpaste and toothbrushes. Easter baskets will be dropped off this week.
"Just look at the kids faces look at their little faces and that says everything," he said he tells his players. "Parents say to me 'this is the greatest thing my son has done.'"
Trimmer will be honored once again in June when he will be inducted into the Essex County Hall of Fame at the Paul Robeson East/West All-Star Football Classic.