Coach sings QB's praises

Calgary Stampeder QB Jason Gesser throws the ball at pratice today in Calgary. Jason Gesser will...

Calgary Stampeder QB Jason Gesser throws the ball at pratice today in Calgary. Jason Gesser will make his first CFL start today in Hamilton for the Stampeders. I have to be mentally prepared to be the stamp quarterback this week," said Gesser, 27, a Washington State product who spent the last couple of seasons on the practice roster of the NFL's Tennessee Titans. (SUN/Al Charest)

IAN BUSBY -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 1:54 PM ET

HAMILTON -- Busy drawing up a plan for his a nationally televised game, Mike Price takes a surprise phone call.

Former star pupil Jason Gesser is about to make his first professional football start. His thoughts?

"It's about time," said the former head coach of the Washington State Cougars. "I just think he's a winner through and through. He is a big-time player. You guys are going to love him up there in Canuckville."

Price is now the head coach with the University of Texas-El Paso but it doesn't take him long to recall all the great times he had with Gesser in Washington.

The quarterback from Honolulu, Hawaii, took Price's Cougars to two Bowl games, including the 2003 Rose Bowl, and often made something out of nothing.

As Gesser takes the field tonight as the starter for the Calgary Stampeders as they face the Hamilton Tiger-Cats (5 p.m., TSN), Price believes Gesser could be a legend in the making.

"He's really fabulous. To me, he's every bit as good as Doug Flutie," Price said. "He's not as fast as Flutie but he's got an innate ability to escape the rush.

"He is so hard to tackle. He has eyes in back of his head and he's real quick. You guys are going to love watching him play."

In three-and-a-half seasons as a starter with Washington State, Gesser set all-time records the likes of Drew Bledsoe, Ryan Leaf and Jack Thompson didn't reach at the university.

Price thinks Gesser is among the best players he has ever had in 25 years as a head coach.

"In some ways, Jason's the very best," said Price. "In scrambling, his escapeability and competitiveness, he's the best I've ever had."

That includes the ability to suck it up and play through injury, like the time Gesser had a severe ankle sprain in the middle of an important contest.

"He's pretty high on sheer grit. He was unbelievable. On national TV in the Rose Bowl, he shouldn't have even been out there playing," Price said about the defeat at the hands of Oklahoma. "He played and did great. But I wanted to kill him at times because he would scramble, stay in there late and throw the ball."

Coach and player are still close friends but don't much time to talk during the season. But instead of beaming with pride at what Gesser has made of his career, Price is just happy to see the 26-year-old get what he wants.

"It doesn't make that much difference to me," Price said. "I love him and respect him and have so much pride in him as a person.

"It doesn't matter if he never plays another snap of pro football. If that's what he wants, I'm with him 100 percent. He's done so much for me ... he repaid me so many times over. He's made me look like a genius."

Price isn't surprised Gesser hasn't wowed anybody in Stampeders practice. Even as a starter in college, Price said Gesser wasn't much of a practice player.

"Practice isn't what he's all about," Price said.

"You can't make plays that aren't there in practice. You don't scramble.

"You don't practice grittiness and competitiveness. Those are things you have or you don't. And he's got them all the way."


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