In any relationship, time makes all the difference.

You can’t really know someone after a few hours or a few days. It takes years of experiences, highs and lows, to really understand someone completely -- to know how they act and why. There are no shortcuts in relationships.

Five years after he met Jason Thompson, Wyoming quarterback coach Jason Gesser knows this to be true.

“With a girlfriend, if you’re dating her for six months you don’t know her just yet. But if you’re together for six years, you know the ins and outs of each other,” Gesser said. “You understand what they want to eat, what movie they want to see. You’re going to speak for them before they even speak.”

Analogies aside, Gesser isn’t talking about his girlfriend. He’s talking about one of his quarterbacks.

Gesser met Thompson five years ago, when the scrawny kid from Washington attended one of his summer camps. As Gesser continued to host camps, Thompson kept showing up, and the two became more and more familiar.

Now in his first season at Wyoming, Gesser knows that he has a unique opportunity to take everything he’s worked on with Thompson and continue to build off that progress. They trust each other, and that trust took time. Time allows for your quarterback coach -- a guy who’s 15 years older than you, who saw something in you when no one else did -- to feel like family.

“It’s good because you have an older brother, but he knows when to be a coach and when to be my friend,” Thompson said.


Sitting in his office early on a Monday morning, Gesser remembers a kid who looked a lot different than he does now. He smiles and pictures him, a skinny kid with a surprising arm.

“He started coming to the camps; scrawny little kid with big ole’ hair and a lot of just raw ability,” Gesser said. “He was one of the best kids I’ve had.”

Not at first. When he arrived at the camp, Thompson was not a quarterback. He knew how to throw a football, but because of his noticeable athleticism he had always been pigeonholed into other positions.

Tossing the ball around, Gesser saw something. When you’re at a large camp, evaluating 50 to 60 quarterbacks per day, you don’t look for the entire package. You’re scouring the bottom of the ocean, searching for a sign of life.

These kids, he knew, would not be polished. It was his job to find a spark -- the briefest hint of potential -- and turn that into a quarterback.

“I’ll sit here and evaluate film over and over and over,” Gesser said, sitting in front of a computer in his office. “You got 500 films that you’re watching, and basically in the first three to seven throws -- depending what throws they are -- you can kind of tell if the kid’s a natural thrower or if the kid can’t throw.

“When Jason was just throwing the ball around ... he should be a quarterback. He was just a natural thrower.”

No one had ever told Thompson to play quarterback before. Gesser, now his quarterback coach at Wyoming, was the very first.

Gesser didn’t know five years ago that this kid -- the one with the big hair and the shy smile -- would start under center in the Mountain West. All he knew was that there was something there, something worth developing.

“Seeing him throw when he was young, seeing the ball come off his hand, how he could throw on the run, how he could throw as an eighth grader," Gesser said, "you don’t see that from every kid,”


Jason Gesser hadn’t seen Jason Thompson in almost a year.

At his Northwest Elite camp, Gesser roamed the fields, watching prospects of all shapes and sizes shuffle in and out of drills. He was surrounded by a plethora of football players; all of them competitive, few of them extraordinary.

That’s when he spotted him.

From about 100 yards away, Gesser noticed a kid with big, black hair slinging footballs, hitting his targets like an experienced marksman on the range. Gesser was drawn to him, a quarterback coach having finally found a pupil.

“I was like, ‘Who’s that?’” Gesser said. “I got closer and I was like, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me.’”

With his freshman season at Wyoming looming, Jason Thompson had returned. His hair was wilder, his frame was more built and his skills were improved, but it was him.

They didn’t know it at the time, but their paths would cross again.


Gesser didn’t know whether to be impressed or disappointed.

In a practice last spring -- his first at Wyoming -- Gesser witnessed Thompson complete a pass that seemed impossible. One reason it was so difficult, he knew, was that the ball should never have gone there in the first place.

“You’re sitting there going, ‘He shouldn’t have been able to make that throw.’ It sucks because it’s the wrong read and the ball isn’t supposed to be going there, but he’s making the throw!” Gesser said. He seems amazed even now, months later. “But guys that have certain physical gifts can get away with those things.”

That’s what Gesser is dealing with. In Thompson, he sees talent, athleticism and the desire to be great.

But he’s still young, he’s still learning and sometimes drastic changes are still necessary.

“His thing is about fundamentals,” Thompson said. “He wants to get down to the base, and if it’s not right he’s going to break you down and start over.”

Towards the end of last spring, the sophomore had been broken down. His footwork was too slow, affecting his reads and causing him to release the ball late. Gesser didn’t hesitate to re-work this part of his game.

And Thompson, perhaps because of that longstanding trust, also didn’t hesitate to throw away bad habits and start anew. Still, the talent remains. His reads may be inconsistent and his footwork needs more work, but those impossible throws are a glimpse of the capabilities of Wyoming's second quarterback.

In Gesser’s eyes, Thompson is capable of anything.

“I truly believe that if he is patient, keeps the work ethic that he has, stays on the path he’s on right now, that not only will he be one of the top Division I quarterbacks, but he might have a chance to play at the next level one day.”

There is a look in his eyes. Gesser is dead serious.


Gesser isn’t sure how he landed at Wyoming, but he’s happy that he did.

His playing career took him to Washington State University, the NFL, the Canadian Football League and the Arena Football League. He had coaching stints at multiple high schools and the University of Idaho before finally landing in Laramie.

Despite the move, though, some sights are familiar. He can walk into to his office and find that scrawny kid with the big ole’ hair, sitting in his chair after practice studying film.

“That’s the other thing that I love about the kid, too. We’ll be in meetings and I’ll come back into my office and he’s in here watching film by himself,” Gesser said. “Not to say that other guys don’t do it too, but it’s fun to see a guy that’s so eager to learn, that wants to improve so much.

“That’s the kind of guy you want to have a team full of.”

Gesser isn’t sure how all the pieces fell into place, allowing him to continue coaching one of his favorite students as he reaches for his dreams. But yet there Thompson is, poring over game film in his office.

Call it luck or coincidence. Call it whatever you want. Teacher and student have been reunited, and Gesser calls it something different: fate.

“To get a job like this and have a relationship with the guy already here, it’s awesome. It’s something the big man upstairs was working on, and it’s happened for a reason in my eyes,” Gesser said. “It’s been a blessing.”

Reach reporter Mike Vorel at Follow him on Twitter @MikeVorel.

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