Gesser set to leave, but camp will go on

Jason Gesser fielded all the calls, and there were a lot of them. As soon as it was announced that he would be leaving his post as head coach at Eastside Catholic High School to join the Washington State Cougars as an Offensive Assistant, his peers wanted to know; what was going to happen with his camp?

"The camp is still going on, nothing has changed in the camp at all," Gesser told this week.

His camp, now known as the Northwest Elite Football Camp, was a bit of a revelation back in 2008 when Gesser decided he wanted to pool his resources and put together a workout that would be what he called a 'win-win' for coaches and prospects alike - sheer evaluation, and sheer exposure.

So he started making calls. His first call was to Paul Wulff, who had just finished up his first spring as Washington State's head man. That call was an obvious one to make; Gesser was a fabulous quarterback for the Cougars, the only player in WSU history to be a three-year captain.

In 2006, Gesser started coaching. He began at Federal Way High School, moved on to Franklin Pierce the following year, and eventually took over Bill Marsh's position at Eastside Catholic.

Gesser has made no secret of the fact that he'd love to coach at the college level. This move to Pullman gives him the opening he's been looking for.

"It's similar to being a Graduate Assistant, but I don't have to go to school," he said of his move to Washington State, one that will be completed in August. "I'll be there working behind the scenes - breaking down film, doing offensive stuff, helping (Todd) Sturdy out, helping Levy (Mike Levenseller) out…just being an extra set of eyes, extra set of hands, doing whatever I can to help them out on the offensive side."

In the meantime, Gesser wants to make sure his last stint as Director of the Northwest Elite Football Camp is a memorable one. There's no question the 2011 camp, which will be held at Skyline High School Friday afternoon from 4 until 8:45 p.m., will be loaded with star power on both sides of the ball.

The idea for the makeup of the camp was derived from a formula used by Alema Te'o, who founded the very successful chain of All-Poly camps. Te'o hired coaches from colleges throughout the west and beyond to come and coach. Gesser did his due diligence, consulted with his coaching contacts and their compliance officers, and the first Gesser camp went off without a hitch in the summer of 2008.

There's no stopping Friday's camp, one that will have coaches from eleven different schools in attendance. Washington State and Portland State are bringing their entire staffs, while head coaches from schools like Idaho (Robb Akey), Montana (Robin Pflugrad), and Central Washington (Blaine Bennett) are expected to attend. Boise State's coordinators - Bob Gregory and Brent Pease - are also due to be there to coach kids up. It's all part of Gesser's vision to bring coaches to prospects that might have the means or accessibility to the June summer camp circuit.

"I've heard nothing but great feedback, because all the kids that want to get to camps and be seen in front of coaches - when they get to team camps, there's only one college there." said Gesser. "But going to a camp where there are 11 colleges there from the Division I level down to the Division III, there's a wide, wide spectrum of coaches. Not only that, but you're going to learn a lot of stuff too, because you're going to hear from a lot of coaches out there. You're going to come out a better player. It'll be more organized because of the sheer number of coaches there. We'll be able to break them down into smaller groups, and we have another field, so there will be more space. That will allow the coaches to be more hands-on, be more selective."

And it's clear from Gesser's ability to reel in coaches from all over the region that they genuinely appreciate this rare opportunity to teach players outside their campuses.

"They love it," he said, matter-of-factly. "They love the atmosphere, and they love being in the area with the local schools. Montana is adding in, and Portland State is adding in this year, and that's two big Divison I-AA, and they are really, really excited to come because they've heard so much buzz about it over the last couple years. The coaches are really enthusiastic. For them to see that many kids in such a short amount of time and do a lot of recruiting…to check kids on a list or check kids off a list…they really use that to a huge advantage in the recruiting process. They want to see this thing continue to grow and get bigger year after year."

With a $65 fee, prospects can go to the camp, get coached up by some of the finest football minds around, and also boost their recruiting stock through the additional visibility. Win-win indeed. It worked for Mercer Island's Jeff Lindquist, who was offered by Washington State based on his Northwest Elite Camp performance.

"All the coaches ask me, how much do you charge for the camp?" said Gesser. "When I tell them, they think I'm kidding. All these other camps charge well over a hundred dollars. It's never been about that. The initial thing about starting all this was, when I started coaching high school football up here in the Northwest and started training guys, I noticed there was a lot of talent that wasn't getting picked up. No one was really noticing them.

"And for the players, they'll get to see how serious the coaches are. At the camps, when they talk to them face to face, they really get to see it. It's just a win-win for both sides - from sheer evaluation to sheer exposure."

Here is a sampling of the players already registered for Friday's camp:

Class of 2012
Drew Austin - Graham-Kapowsin (WA)
Anthony Berg - Kamiak (WA)
Connor Black - Wenatchee (WA)
Chad Chalich - Lake City (ID)
Sam Flor - O'Dea (WA)
Cody Fulleton - O'Dea (WA)
Reece Hack - Stayton (OR)
Eric Lemke - Issaquah (WA)
Levonte Littlejohn - Lakes (WA)
Ma'ne Manaea - Lakes (WA)
Mitchell Marboe - Wenatchee (WA)
D.J. May - Federal Way (WA)
Parker Mays - Seattle Prep (WA)
Uso Olive - Federal Way (WA)
Ty Saathoff - Curtis (WA)
Caleb Saulo - Kentlake (WA)
Caleb Smith - Kentridge (WA)
Tyler Stumph - Stadium (WA)
Visa Thach - Kentwood (WA)
Jason Thompson - Kennedy (WA)
Darryl Trotter - Rainier Beach (WA)
Jordan Visarraga - Willamette (OR)
Brady Watts - Tualatin (OR)
Jordan Wernet - Decatur (WA)

Class of 2013
Max Browne - Skyline (WA)
Kahlil Dawson - Graham-Kapowsin (WA)
Sefo Liufau - Bellarmine Prep (WA)
Peyton Pelluer - Skyline (WA)
Michael Tupou - Inglemoor (WA)

Class of 2014
Isaiah Brandt-Sims - Wenatchee (WA)

For more information on the Northwest Elite Football camp, including registration information, click on the link below.

2011 Northwest Elite Football Camp

Ideally, Gesser would like to cap the camp off at 300 participants. "We're pretty close to that mark," he said. "We might take some walk-ons the day of the camp, per NCAA rules. We're really trying to not go too big. The biggest thing is to get the word out. If you're going to do it, enroll now - because if you try to wait until the end, you might get pushed out."

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