July 9, 2002
DUSTY, Wash. - Washington State University officials planted the seed for quarterback Jason Gesser's Heisman Trophy campaign Tuesday in Dusty, Wash., hanging a 25-foot high banner from a 100-foot high grain elevator.
"We spent about $2,500 on this likeness of Jason," offered Cougar head coach Mike Price, whose WSU team is expected to battle for national exposure during the upcoming season. "Some schools spend 100 times that amount and use tall buildings in the nation's largest city, but that's not Washington State."
With the inscription "Gess Who 4 Heisman" across the top of the Gesser action photo, the banner now hangs from a grain elevator along State Route 26, the main highway to the WSU campus from the west and central areas of the state. The town of Dusty, which features the Dusty Caf? and the Dusty Cooperative (a local agribusiness cooperative), is nestled among the grain fields of Eastern Washington about 30 miles west of Pullman. The population is estimated at 10.
"That's pretty cool, but it doesn't look quite as big now," said Gesser, who was present for the unveiling, along with Price. Gesser had originally seen the banner displayed in the entrance to the athletic department's Bohler Gym, where it wasn't dwarfed by the size of the grain storage unit.
"Look at this turnout," commented Price as he watched area fans gather around Gesser for photographs and autographs on the back of Cougar football jerseys, hats and helmets. "This is great, this is what Washington State is all about," Price added.
Price is credited with coming up with the original idea of a banner boosting Gesser for the Heisman consideration. Price's "Gess Who" idea was originally to be displayed on a local barn, but then changed to the grain elevator in Dusty, which is owned by the Ritzville Warehouse Company.
Gesser led the Pacific-10 Conference in passing and total offense last year as Washington State finished 10-2 and ranked tenth nationally. This year's team, with many of last year's stars returning, is predicted by most pre-season magazines to finish anywhere from sixth to fifteenth in the national polls.
Gesser threw for 3,010 yards in 2001 and now ranks fifth on the Cougar passing and total offense career lists. Before the end of the 2002 season, the senior quarterback is expected to break all WSU career quarterback records, passing such Cougar greats as Jack Thompson, Drew Bledsoe, Ryan Leaf and Timm Rosenbach.
In his last 20 games, Gesser had thrown 42 touchdown passes. In his first three seasons he has thrown for 5,422 yards and has amassed 5,522 total offense yards.
Area power company Avista provided the bucket trucks and F.O. Berg from Spokane provided the crew that attached the banner to the grain elevator. The unveiling of the banner was delayed a day after Avista had to put all of its equipment on alert Monday following a storm that moved through Eastern Washington early in the day.
"It is amazing how many people helped make this possible," said WSU Athletic Director Jim Sterk. He cited Rainier Industries for the development of the banner, Avista for donating the bucket truck, F.O. Berg for agreeing to attach the banner, and the Ritzville Warehouse Company, owners of the grain elevator who donated the use of the display area.
Cougar athletic department officials also plan to hang a "Gess Who 4 Heisman" banner somewhere between Seattle and Tacoma where it can be seen by commuters driving north and south on I-5.
"We would like the banner displayed throughout the month of August to promote our season-opener Aug. 31, against Nevada in the new Seahawk Stadium," said Sterk. "We have identified a couple of sites that could give us the visibility we want, but we are still searching for just the right location."