Jake Sessions looks back on the past three seasons, and it all feels like a blur.

As he maneuvers his fourth fall camp as a redshirt junior, he’s finally in the mix for playing time along the offensive line. And it’s a position he wasn’t sure he was ever going to be in.

Coming from Colstrip, he initially faced what he said “every freshman goes through.” He wasn’t familiar with his new teammates, didn’t know the playbook and questioned whether he could realistically compete for playing time.

But then defensive lineman Tucker Yates, an older Montana State player from Colstrip, mentored Sessions and helped him through those challenging days early in Sessions’ career.

“He just taught me that regardless of where you come from or what you come in with,” Sessions said, “you can work your way into something.”

The Bobcats return all but one key offensive line contributor, and Sessions has ascended into the top tier of players in the position group as he’s rotated in and out of practicing among the starters through two practices. He’s joined the starters at left guard this week, and his ability to play both guard and tackle provides more chances to crack the lineup. As he battles for a starting spot, Sessions is far from the player he was a few years ago.

Instead of wondering when he’ll reach starting status, it’s now within reach. Instead of looking up to older players, he’s one others now look up to. Instead of dreading extra workouts, he’s learned to love them.

“He’s just changed how he approaches everything,” MSU head coach Jeff Choate said. “Guys come into college, and they got distractions. ... Now that he’s a little bit more mature and has had a chance to grow into the program, he’s really developed into a pretty good leader for us.”

Early in Sessions’ career, Yates forced him to tag along for workouts on their own. During the break between semesters, they lifted every day together in the Colstrip High School weight room. Though the regimen was tough — Sessions called Yates “a workhorse” — he began to embrace it. He experienced a crucial turning point in his career that keyed his development.

After Yates finished his senior season in December, Sessions realized he was older than most of his teammates. His role changed from an up-and-comer adjusting to college football to a veteran competing for a starting spot. As others shifted their perspective of him, Sessions shifted his too.

“I’m not nervous or scared anymore,” Sessions said.

The 6-foot-5, 295-pound Sessions added run blocking is his strength as he likes to hit opponents.

By playing both guard and tackle, he has a better grasp on the offense overall and what his teammates who line up next to him are assigned to do. So as he’s developed on the physical side by learning from Yates, he’s developed mentally too.

The second turning point came this spring as former offensive coordinator Brian Armstrong returned to coaching the offensive line. Armstrong worked with the position group in 2016, Sessions’ first year in the program.

“I feel like he kind of gave me a chance. He’s helped me along (and) develop as a player. This last spring, it started to kind of click a little more too,” Sessions said. “It was kind of that second step, it was like ‘OK, I think I can definitely do this.’”

When Sessions’ performance in the weight room improved, he wasn’t sure it would translate onto the field. Then he started playing better and better during the spring. He went from playing well one day and wondering if he was lucky to building a self-belief he could match his best teammates. Those positive days turned into weeks, and the doubt Sessions once possessed slipped away.

“Sessions has always been a big body. Good teammate — great teammate. Everyone loves Sessions,” offensive guard Lewis Kidd said. “He’s always had a good attitude, and now he’s finally getting his shot, putting in the stuff that he needs to on film.”

As fall camp continues, Sessions understands he still has more to accomplish. He wants to improve his technique, continue studying the playbook and steadily progress. That’s what’s already worked thus far.

“I’m definitely not there yet. There’s a lot of good players on the O-line, and we’ll see how it all shakes out at the end of fall camp,” Sessions said. “It feels good just to be a part of it, (to) be competing for a spot.”

Paul Schwedelson can be reached at pschwedelson@dailychronicle.com or 406-582-2670. Follow him on Twitter @pschweds.

Paul Schwedelson is a sports writer for the Bozeman Daily Chronicle.