Grain Valley football coach David Allie had a new “assistant coach” on the sidelines this week.

Former Eagles standout Tristan Pfeiffer returned home from Western Illinois University and spent the week on the sidelines at his alma mater.

“This is just the best when a young man who meant so much to our program comes back and wants to work with the guys and help them get better,” Allie said. “He’s one of the guys who want to give back, and that is so special to me and our staff.

“I just wish he’d have used a little more sunscreen today.”

The coach and Pfeiffer chuckled over that comment as his face was glowing.

“A little sunburn is worth coming back and working with the team,” said Pfeiffer, one of the great success stories in Eagles history as he earned a Division I scholarship despite tearing his ACL four games into his senior year. “I was in the weight room working out and talked with Coach Allie about helping with the team and he said, ‘Sure!’ I’ve been here every day and I’ve enjoyed it so much. I remember all the great days practicing at Grain Valley. This really brought back some great memories.”

But one memory he would rather forget happened in Game 4.

“I tore my ACL, and I remember the doctor bringing out the MRI results and telling me that I’d miss the rest of the season and he said, ‘Go ahead and cry if you want, let it all out,’” Pfeifer said. “But I wasn’t in the mood to cry. I knew with a lot of hard work I’d be back, I’d be fine.”

A former Eagles teammate, Neil Lyons, suffered the same injury and knew his best friend would come back stronger than ever.

“I watched him go down, I knew he tore his ACL and I was scared for him,” said Lyons, who was on the sidelines with Pfeiffer at the high school practice session Friday. “But I knew Tristan would come back and not let than injury keep him from playing football. Now, he’s playing Division. I am so proud of him.”

So is team manager Zach Aubuchon, a little person who was befriended by Pfeiffer throughout their high school days.

“Being friends with Tristan really helped, since I’m a little person and you never know how kids are going to react,” Aubuchon said. “I call him my dad. He was always there for me, my best friend, the real deal. Everyone wanted to be friends with Tristan, and he wanted to be my friend and that really made me feel special.”

After months of strenuous rehab, Pfeiffer realized his dream when he made his first collegiate tackle in the Leathernecks spring game.

“I had forgotten how good it felt to make a tackle in a game,” Pfeiffer said, smiling from ear to ear. “It was a counter to the opposite side, and I split through two guys and made the tackle in the backfield. It was an amazing feeling!”

Now, he hopes to make an impression on the coaching staff and earn some playing time this season for the FCS program.

“I just want the chance to get out there and prove to our coaches that they made the right choice by honoring their commitment to me after I tore my ACL,” he said. “A lot of schools backed off, but not Western Illinois.”

Everytime Allie and Pfeiffer get together, the veteran coach reminds him of a conversation they had when he was in the eighth grade.

“I was talking to Coach Allie and he reminded me that back when I was in eighth grade, I told him I would be his first Division I signee,” Pfeiffer said. “That’s a pretty bold statement coming from an eighth grader, but playing college football – especially Division I football – has been my dream for as long as I can remember.”

And now, that dream is a reality.

“Coach Allie and Coach (Pete) Carpino and all our coaches made that dream come true,” Pfeiffer said, “that’s why I want to come back and help anyway I can.”