Gesser aims to change state's prep landscape

JASON GESSER

THE RECENT NEWS that Jason Gesser is the new head coach at Eastside Catholic in Sammamish is but a small part of the full Gesser story these days. With his pro career behind him, the legendary old Cougar is headed full steam into coaching. But not just in the autumn. Over the next six Sundays he plans to start changing the landscape of high school football in the state of Washington.

Gesser has formed a business called Jason Gesser Elite Sports. The focus is clinics and elite football camps for players and coaches alike.

And he's drawing assistance from a plethora of impressive contacts he made along his path from college to the NFL, CFL and AFL.

High schools in Washington historically produce about 30 to 35 Division I-A football signees per year. This past year, with 19 home growns signing major-college letters of intent (13 to BCS conference schools), the state ranked No. 29 out of 50.

And that, says Gesser, just isn't right. The state is nowhere near reaching its potential in football.

"I really want to make Washington a powerhouse state for football -- there are numerous all-year programs for young people in baseball, basketball, lacrosse and soccer. Why not for football?

"They're doing it down in Texas, in Florida, on the East Coast. We need to do it up here. There's a lot of talent in the area but they're in need of the right direction. I'm trying to give them that on a year-round basis," said Gesser.

GESSER LAST YEAR put on "Elite QB and Skills Camps". This spring he's been conducting Sunday workouts for prep players and will continue to do so the next six Sundays at Interlake High in Bellevue. He'll culminate it all with his new Northwest Elite Camp on June 21 at the Starfire Sports Complex in Tukwila. And the day prior, on June 20, Gesser will hold a clinic for high school coaches.

The list of people he is calling upon to help him includes Paul Wulff and his entire Washington State staff, coaches from Hawaii, Idaho and other schools, and NFL players past and present.

But in the six weeks leading up to the camps, there's the hands-on instruction taking place on Sundays.

Among the notables who have been and/or will be assisting at these Sunday workouts are former Cougar receivers such as Mike Bush, Collin Henderson and Greg Prator, plus nationally renown speed and strength trainer Travelle Gaines. Over the last two years, says Gesser, more than 100 NFL players, including 64 starters and seven reigning Pro Bowlers, have worked with Gaines. Thirty-two athletes prepared with him for the 2009 NFL Draft.

"Some high school coaches are great -- they know what they're talking about. But one thing I noticed when I started coaching high school football was that too many kids weren't learning proper techniques, embracing the right kind of conditioning, or preparing for the mental aspects of the game. They weren't up to par," said Gesser.

"When I was an assistant coach at Franklin Pierce, I personally mentored five quarterbacks that were in our league -- guys that we competed against. The bottom line is that we're out here for the kids. The knowledge needs to be passed on because the talent is here. They just need to be pointed in the right direction."

GESSER BELIEVES his two-pronged teaching approach -- college and pro players and coaches emphasizing both physical and mental parts of the game -- is what can help turn the state of Washington into a major producer of D-IA talent.

"There are many players in the state with college potential who never get there," Gesser says. "The Sunday workouts and the elite camp are geared toward helping change all that."

"What I'm trying to accomplish is to get kids out there and coached up by guys who have been to the next level and excelled. Some of them weren't the fastest or most athletic but they played smart and have a great knowledge of the game and had great success. That's what I'm trying to create here," said Gesser.

THE VAST MAJORITY of players, when the time comes for them to hang up the cleats, will always try and leave the door open for a return. Not Gesser, who spent the last several seasons with the Utah Blaze of the Arena Football League. The AFL suspended the 2009 season after two decades in business and may open back up in a year or two but Gesser says he won't put on the pads again.

Gesser's June camp will feature college coaches providing hands on instruction
A FEW YEARS back, the NCAA barred college coaches from attending independent football camps and combines. But the NCAA does allow them to coach hands on, and Gesser has done his homework for his upcoming camps in June.

"I've gone through the NCAA with compliance, and all the schools to make sure everything was right and it's all cleared. The coaches are getting paid by me for their work, they're on my staff. There's a window that allows for it and that's why we've set things up for June 20-21," said Gesser.

At Washington State, with a light class load his senior year, Gesser was in the football office every day, from early in the morning until late at night, listening and learning. Mike Price and Chris Ball told him, 'You're going to be a better coach than you are a player.' In the years since, a slow transition has taken place. It is coaching that is in his blood now, not playing.

"I'm ready," said Gesser. "I had just signed a two-year deal with the New York Dragons and I was supposed to be playing for them right now. They folded the '09 season and that allowed me to do something I've always wanted to do: devote myself to coaching. The Eastside Catholic opportunity presented itself and it couldn't have been better timing. My playing days are behind me. This is the next stage of my life now."

High school players and coaches looking for information and to register for this Sunday's workout, the following five Sunday workouts and the camps held on June 20-21, can head to jasongesser.com

NOTABLE NOTE:
Gesser will continue to serve as a college football color analyst this season for Fox Sports Northwest so long as it doesn't interfere with his coaching duties at Eastside Catholic -- he won't be on FSN the two Saturdays when E-C has games.

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