PULLMAN – Jason Gesser was always good at reversing his field.
He did it Thursday, when the University of Idaho announced the former Washington State quarterback had joined football coach Robb Akey’s coaching staff.
Just a month ago, Gesser resigned as head coach at Sammamish’s Eastside Catholic High to take an off-field position with his alma mater, a job that was scheduled to start Aug. 1.
But Gesser’s replacement at Eastside was another former Cougar, Jeremy Thielbahr, who resigned as Idaho’s running back’s coach to take the spot.
That left an opening in Moscow – a spot Gesser was happy to fill.
“It happened real fast,” Gesser said Thursday evening. “This happened over the last week or two. There was an opening there and I’ve known Akey a long time. When he first got the job a few years back (after leaving WSU, where he was defensive coordinator), I called him and tried to get on his staff then, but he didn’t have any opportunities for me.
“Now that he did, he called and asked if I was interested and I said yeah. It kind of went from there.”
Gesser’s job at Washington State would have had no on-field responsibilities. As UI’s running backs coach, Gesser will be involved in coaching and recruiting like any other assistant.
Gesser’s recruiting responsibilities for Idaho will include the Northwest and his native Hawaii.
“He’ll have some influence recruiting in Hawaii as well as the Seattle area where he is a household name, and all over the Northwest,” Akey said in a media release. “And obviously he will be a leader and a mentor to not just the running backs but all the guys on our team as well.”
Not only will Gesser be on the field, he’ll also be picking up a much larger paycheck, some five or six times more than he would have earned in the entry-level WSU position, he said. But it wasn’t about the money.
“I basically took the job at Washington State to get a job like the one I’m taking now at Idaho,” Gesser said. “To be able to kind of fast track, that really was a great opportunity.”
Gesser said the first people he called when Akey offered the job were WSU coach Paul Wulff and offensive coordinator Todd Sturdy.
“Coach Wulff was very excited,” Gesser said. “I asked him what he thought throughout the whole scenario and he said, ‘Hey, it’s a no-brainer. You’ve got to take this. If you don’t, that would be stupid of you.’”
Gesser said that although the WSU position was a dream come true, it couldn’t compare with the chance Akey offered. He hopes WSU fans will understand that.
“It’s about the opportunity and about getting into the game and being able to be with the people I’m going to be with,” said Gesser, who compared Akey to former WSU coach Mike Price and praised the rest of the UI staff. “At the end of the day, I hope Washington State fans understand that I’m not trading anything for anything else. I’m taking an opportunity.
“Hopefully, they can be happy for me and (will) respect and understand that. Being my ultimate goal is to be a head coach someday, this puts me a step ahead.”