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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, November 25, 2006

Brennan: QB with a past and presence

Colt Brennan photo gallery
 •  Hawai'i, Purdue both see it as must-win game

By Stephen Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer

“He’s my brother,” Samson Satele says of Colt Brennan, as he demonstrates his aloha.

GREGORY YAMAMOTO | The Honolulu Advertiser

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Position: Quarterback

Height: 6-3

Weight: 190

Class: Junior

Born: Aug. 16, 1983, in Laguna Beach, Calif.

Family: Has two sisters; parents are Betsy and Terry Brennan of Irvine, Calif.

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  • Named one of the 10 "Players to Watch" for the Walter Camp Football Foundation 2006 Player of the Year award. The list includes Heisman Trophy favorite Troy Smith, a quarterback from Ohio State, and Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn.

  • Named one of 11 finalists for the Manning Award to be presented to the nation's best college quarterback.

  • One of three finalists for the Davey O'Brien National Quarterback Award, an honor given annually to the nation's best college quarterback. It is the oldest award for college quarterbacks.

  • Named Walter Camp National Offensive Player of the Week after a six-touchdown-pass performance against Utah State Nov. 4.

  • Earned Western Athletic Conference Offensive Player of the Week three times this season.

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    This season

  • Leads nation in passing efficiency, total offense, points responsible for, passing yards, touchdown passes.

  • Tied an NCAA record with Houston's David Klingler for most touchdown passes (83) in two seasons.

  • Established UH record for most touchdown passes in a season (48), shattering the previous record of 38.

  • Is just six touchdown passes shy of NCAA single-season record of 54, set by Houston's David Klingler in 1990.

    Sophomore season

  • Tied or broke 11 school offensive records.

  • Led the nation in total offensive yards (4,455) and touchdown passes (35).

  • Recorded nine 300-plus yards games.

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    Tick ... tick ... tick ...

    Another day.

    University of Hawai'i quarterback Colt Brennan is in discomfort. He has a strained lumbar, which starches his lower back, tightens his hamstrings and, in general, makes it a pain in the wallet to run.

    The only prescription is rest and treatment, but where's the time for that?

    As the nation's passing leader for college football's best offense, Brennan is Hawai'i's metaphorical fresh air in a year of mudslides, sewage spills and earthquakes.

    He is Michelle Wie with a winning record, "Lost" without the bad-driving abstract.

    He appears on every list: Heisman, Davey O'Brien, Manning, The It ...

    "He's Hawai'i's Golden Boy," UH free safety Leonard Peters says.

    Brennan's hair, in fact, is brown, and he tries — unsuccessfully — to deflect the praise.

    He says this is center Samson Satele's team.

    He insists running back Nate Ilaoa "is the straw that stirs the drink ... and it's a very sweet concoction."

    He credits the offensive linemen, then rewards each with a large pizza pie every Tuesday.

    "Colt is always saying nice things about us," slotback Davone Bess insists. "That means a lot to us."

    After six days of practices, meetings, school, more meetings, and then a game, Brennan is exhausted on Sundays, what should be his only day of rest during the season.

    And he is sore, even though a lumbar strain leaves no prints — unlike the muscle tears in both of his shoulders last season when he led the nation in passing yards and touchdown throws as a third-year sophomore and first-year Warrior.

    The pain is sharp, real and requires treatment. But his free time is spent speaking to youths and school groups; sharing his testimony at church services; offering advice at a juvenile detention center.

    "He doesn't like to talk about it, but he never turns down an invitation to speak or sign autographs," assistant coach Rich Miano says.

    At the Hawaiian Mission Elementary & Intermediate school fair last month, two mothers giggled with excitement as Brennan signed their T-shirts.

    "Thank you for asking," Brennan said to them, as he always does to anyone who asks a favor.

    Later, Brennan says, "I'm so thankful for the way things have been in Hawai'i. The people here are so warm and understanding. I'll do anything to show my appreciation."

    On good days, there doesn't seem to be enough time.

    On bad days, there is too much time. That's when he has difficulty sleeping. Or eating. Or forgetting about that night in Colorado that changed his life.

    Tick ... tick ... tick ...

    It was January 2004, and Brennan, a freshman quarterback for the University of Colorado, entered a female student's dormitory room.

    He was admittedly drunk, arrogant and not "a gentleman." The student's friend opened the door and saw Brennan sitting on the bed and the woman sitting on the computer desk.

    Later, Brennan was charged with several crimes, including sexual contact.

    Brennan said he never touched the woman — a claim backed by the woman's friend, supported by a polygraph and confirmed by the judge. He was acquitted of all charges except felony trespass (entering the room) and burglary (not leaving immediately). The incident occurred on his dormitory floor, three doors down, two doors to the right.

    He apologized to the woman and expressed remorse for his rude behavior.

    He was offered a sentence of seven days in the Boulder (Colo.) County Jail — to be served in three- and four-day stints — and four years probation.

    "I could have waited two, three more years through the court process to clear my name," Brennan said. "I decided to move on with my life."

    It wasn't that easy. In his first jail stint, he shared a cell with a man accused of murder.

    He said court reporters incorrectly wrote that he was convicted of a sexual crime. He won a retraction from one of the newspapers, but could not expunge the erroneous stories now stored in newspaper archives.

    "What I was found guilty of was galaxies away from what I was accused of doing and what the media portrayed," Brennan said.

    Of his second stint, Brennan recalled, "I had to sit there in that jail cell with 50 other guys reading I had been convicted of a sex crime when I was just not convicted of a sex crime."

    On his last day in jail, Brennan recalled, another inmate approached "and tried to show some bravado. He walked away. I saw him talk to a couple of guys. That was during breakfast. We went in, got locked up, and an hour later it was 'get out of here.'"

    He was released, but Brennan did not feel completely free.

    After his arrest, Colorado dismissed him from the team. He transferred to Saddleback Community College in California, and despite a breakout season, scholarship offers — including one from Syracuse — were withdrawn following his conviction.

    "Growing up as a kid, I did everything right, from kindergarten to age 18," Brennan said. "I never got suspended; I never was a problem in class. I was always respectful. ... I went from a kid who did everything right to Public Enemy No. 1."

    He said he accepts the blame for his rudeness that night. Still, the inaccurate reports, he said, have left an indelible scar on his reputation.

    "It's one of those things where every day I continue to fight everything that happened," Brennan said. "It doesn't leave me. Right before football games, if there's one thing I'm thinking about, it's that; it's that court case; it's that whole situation. That's my motivation. It never leaves my mind. I'm very troubled. I'm very troubled by the whole situation, and just by everything that happened.

    "I have so much fun with football," he added. "It's my release from having to sit there by myself. I still have trouble sleeping sometimes. I have trouble eating. I have a lot of trouble eating. I'm still haunted by all of that stuff."

    Tick ... tick ... tick ...

    Brennan was the accidental recruit.

    A Saddleback coach told local radio personality Randy Miyamoto about wide receiver Jerard Rabb. Miyamoto gave a highlight video to Miano, who watched it with UH receivers coach Ron Lee. At one point, Lee asked: "Who's the quarterback?"

    Miano asked the Saddleback coach, who praised Brennan but told of his legal situation.

    Miano told UH head coach June Jones, who came back with one request: Find any dirt on Brennan.

    One little mistake, Jones told Miano, and the Brennan discussion would end.

    Miano talked to college and high school coaches; friends and competitors; family members and teachers.

    "Everyone told me what a great guy he was," Miano recalled.

    Miano also talked to people in Colorado.

    "They explained the whole situation, and they said it was out of character," Miano said. "I would have stopped the whole process if I had any inkling he was a bad guy."

    Miano gave his report to Jones. By then, the Warriors had allocated all of the scholarships to the 2005 recruiting class.

    Jones, at first, decided to reject Brennan. After some thought, he agreed to ask Brennan to join as a non-scholarship player.

    "Coach Jones, Coach Miano and Coach (Dan) Morrison had come over and talked to him," said Terry Brennan, Colt's father. "When Jones came to visit at the house, he said, 'I've watched you, and here's what I think your strengths are and what you need to work on. You've got an opportunity to be around some pretty talented kids.'"

    Colt Brennan accepted the invitation, even turning down a late scholarship offer from San Jose State.

    "That was his call," Terry Brennan said. "I think he made a good, informed decision."

    After that it was a matter of a couple of months before Brennan would report to UH.

    Tick ... tick ... tick ...

    It was the first day of unsupervised summer workouts, when the skinny guy went to the equipment room in search of a football.

    "He was the lost kid walking around," said Tyler Graunke, who was projected to be the starting quarterback. "I kind of took him in. He didn't know a lot of people, or what was going on."

    They walked out to the practice field, where they met some of the other players who were preparing for 7-on-7 drills.

    Brennan stood to the side, allowing Graunke to take the lead.

    "There are two kinds of transfers," said Peters, the free safety. "The quiet ones and the cocky ones. There's no in-between. He was a quiet one."

    The players had heard the rumors, the questions surrounding Brennan's past.

    Later, Peters, a devout Mormon with two sisters and great respect for women, had a long talk with Brennan. Brennan talked about his life, his background, his situation.

    Peters looked into Brennan's eyes, and saw the remorse.

    "I knew he was a good guy," Peters said.

    Graunke and Brennan were supposed to be competitors for the starting job. "We started hanging out, and we became good friends," Graunke said. They shared an apartment last season.

    "Hawai'i is a very forgiving place," Graunke said. "He got a lot of love from the people. He's a good guy who was in a bad situation. But he put it behind him and moved on."

    Peters, who was born in American Samoa and raised on the North Shore, said Brennan easily fits in with the different groups on the team.

    "Most of the white guys who come from the Mainland hang out with the white guys at first," Peters said. "This team tries to accept everybody. Colt gets along with everybody. He's respectful. He tries to learn the culture. He takes Samoan classes. We took him in, and Hawai'i loves him."

    Brennan made it a point to learn the haka.

    When he poses for pictures, his fingers automatically bend into the shaka sign.

    He wears a T-shirt that reads "Haole," and his Myspace profile proclaims him as one of the "coolest Haoles."

    One of Brennan's best friends is Satele, the offensive captain. Satele's thick arms are covered with tattoos; his long, wavy hair covers the "S.Satele" on the back of his jersey. Brennan has short hair and no tattoos.

    "I don't care how many touchdowns he throws," Satele said. "If he was a bad guy, we wouldn't let him hang around us. Colt's a very good person. He's my brother; my younger brother."

    Miano said: "He gets along with everybody. He gets along with the locals, the African-Americans. He gives credit to the offensive line, the defense, his receivers, Nate (Ilaoa). He understands this is a team game, and he happens to be in the spotlight because of who we are and what we do. He knows he couldn't do it without everybody else."

    Jones described Brennan as a "people guy. He's a quarterback. If you're going to be a good quarterback, you'd better be able to lead all kinds of people. He's a great quarterback, the best in the country."

    Jones believes that, in time, Brennan will develop into the first quarterback selected in the 2008 National Football League draft.

    Brennan has indicated he will return for his senior season.

    "I love the people here," Brennan said. "The one thing I've learned about Hawai'i's people is they're very understanding. When I came here, it was like, 'Well, whatever. We've heard worse. We've seen worse.' It wasn't like they were trying to judge or pass judgment. As a whole, it's been very positive."

    And Brennan, perhaps, is realizing that he's having the time of his life.

    Tick ... tick ... tick ...

    Reach Stephen Tsai at stsai@honoluluadvertiser.com.

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