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UW Signing Day 1

Wyoming’s quarterbacks coach Jason Gesser watches during the start of a press conference for signing day on Wednesday afternoon in Laramie. Gesser, who finished seventh in the 2002 Heisman Trophy voting, joins UW after coaching offense at Idaho.

Jason Gesser was already hoarse.

The 33-year-old coach had found out "just a couple days ago" that he would be a quarterbacks coach on Dave Christensen's Wyoming staff. This allow him just enough time to lose his voice pumping up the Cowboys during an off-season conditioning session the same week he arrived.

"I'm extremely excited about it, obviously," he croaked, not long after Christensen announced Gesser's hiring in the opening minutes of Wyoming's press conference for National Signing Day on Wednesday.

The addition of Gesser will turn some heads. He's known as the quarterback who led Washington State to the 2003 Rose Bowl then made a brief stop with the Tennessee Titans in the NFL. Gesser, who finished seventh in the 2002 Heisman Trophy voting, also the former Idaho offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach who stepped in as the interim head coach for the Vandals when former coach Robb Akey was fired last season.

So how did he end up in Laramie?

Well, that all starts with Wyoming associate head coach Pete Kaligis. Gesser has known Kaligis for years, a result of Kaligis recruiting players from Eastside Catholic High School in Seattle, where Gesser was coaching in 2009.

"I've always stayed in touch with Coach Pete," Gesser said.

His friendship with Kaligis continued when his jobs changed. He became a running backs coach at Idaho and was then promoted to quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator. Then, after Akey was shown the door last season, he took over the fledgling program.

"It's going to help my career tremendously," Gesser said. "I basically got 10 years of experience mushed down into two years. ... Was it easy? No. Was it fun at all times? No.

"In the long run, I think all the experiences, the things I did over there and went through — from managing the office, to the offense, to the whole team — are going to help me in my experience as a young coach in this business."

Gesser said he was a finalist for the Idaho head coaching. That same is true for Wyoming defensive coordinator Chris Tormey -- who had previously been Idaho's head coach. But the opening went to Paul Petrino in December. And that left Gesser out of work.

"I was kind of on the outside looking in," he said. "I was looking for a spot to land."

Meanwhile, Christensen's staff changed unexpectedly. Former receivers coach Jason Ray left to take the same position at Oklahoma State. Christensen decided to look for the best coach available to fill the hole, regardless of position. He landed on Gesser.

"I was extremely impressed with his knowledge of the game," Christensen said. "He was an All-American quarterback, took his team to the Rose Bowl, played in some different pro leagues. I liked the work he did at Idaho. I thought he would be a great addition to work with our quarterbacks."

The hiring caused a shift among UW's current offensive coaches. Wyoming offensive coordinator Gregg Brandon had previously coached quarterbacks but has been switched to running backs. Derek Sage will continue to coach wide receivers. Jim Harding and Kaligis will split time between offensive line and tight ends.

Gesser already has experience with Wyoming's top two quarterbacks. He's met UW junior quarterback Brett Smith and sophomore quarterback Jason Thompson before, thanks to quarterback camps he ran in Washington.

"I've known Jason Thompson since he was going into his freshman year of high school," Gesser said. "I didn't train Brett as much, but he came up to my camps once in a while, so I already knew him and had a previous relationship with him. That's a cool thing."

In those camps, Gesser passed the knowledge he gained as a player on to younger quarterbacks. It's what he hopes to do at Wyoming as well.

"Having sat there and played the position, not only at a high college level, but also in the NFL and pro ball ... I've gone through it myself," he said. "I have walked in their shoes."

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Reach reporter Ben Frederickson at Follow him on Twitter @Ben_Fred.


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