Hawaii quarterback graduates from college
|Photo gallery: Colt Brennan's UH graduation|
|Video: Hawaii quarterback Colt Brennan graduates|
By Stephen Tsai
By Stephen Tsai
There have been hundreds of college graduation ceremonies across the nation this past week.
But only the University of Hawai'i's fall ceremony featured a 2007 Heisman Trophy finalist, a commencement speaker wearing a replica of the star quarterback's jersey, and a rousing 27-second ovation for the last College of Arts and Sciences graduate announced.
Then again, UH quarterback Colt Brennan is not an ordinary student, ensuring that yesterday's commencement ceremony in the Stan Sheriff Center would not be an ordinary event.
"Of all of the accomplishments and great rewards, getting a degree takes the cake," said Brennan, who earned a bachelor's in communications.
"This is the icing on the cake," said his father, Terry Brennan. "This is the best."
By choice, Brennan and his football teammates — defensive ends Amani Purcell and Karl Noa, defensive tackle Siave Seti, and linebacker Rustin Saole — sat in the last row of graduation candidates.
There was little chance Brennan would go unnoticed. Before starting his commencement address, Barry Weinman, managing director and co-founder of Allegis Capital, said he wanted to change into "a robe." He then took off his jacket, and put on a No. 15 jersey — Brennan's number.
"I was laughing," Brennan said. "Dude, that will be a great story when I get older."
Later, each of the graduating students was introduced. For nearly 30 minutes, Brennan and his teammates stood, waiting for their turn to join the line.
Purcell, Noa, Seti and Saole each received warm applause when their names were announced. And then:
"And Hawai'i's Heisman, Colt Brennan!"
Brennan raised his arms, then shook hands with a row of well-wishers.
"It feels like it took forever for me to be done," Brennan said. "And for me, to finally accomplish it, it's a great feeling. The best thing is to get a degree from this school. This place is unique. You really feel special coming to the University of Hawai'i, especially this being the school's 100th year."
It has been a long academic journey for Brennan, a 2002 graduate of Mater Dei High School in California. He attended Worcester (Mass.) Prep Academy, the University of Colorado and Saddleback Community College (Mission Viejo, Calif.) before enrolling at UH as a non-scholarship player in August 2005. He was placed on scholarship in January 2006.
As the face of the state's only Division I-A school, Brennan has had to meet the demands of football and academics.
"It's all about balancing stuff out," Brennan said. "Throughout my life, I had a couple of runs. When I was in seventh and eighth grade, I got straight A's. Then I got into high school, and I didn't do as well. Then I got into (junior college), and I really did well. It's all of these highs and lows. But the key is to keep pressing. Don't let the lows take you out of school. You have to keep pushing. It's definitely worth it. It's a lifelong thing nobody can take away from you."
It was particularly difficult in the past month when the Warriors beat tough opponents to finish the regular season as the nation's only undefeated I-A team. As a result, the Warriors will play Georgia in the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 1. Brennan, who needed to complete a thesis as a graduation requirement, missed valuable time when he attended the Heisman Trophy ceremony in New York last week. He finished third in the Heisman voting.
"I've seen how hard he's worked from Day 1," said his girlfriend, Shakti Stream. "He went through a lot of stress. There's football, autograph obligations, studying. Sometimes he forgets to eat because he's so busy. I'm glad he's done. It's so great to see the smile on his face. All of the stress is gone. He can focus on football — and eating, and putting on weight."
Brennan said: "Man, I used to be so stressed out. I've been gaining weight like crazy these last couple of days now that I'm done with school."
The lightness was apparent yesterday. Underneath his green gown, Brennan wore a gray T-shirt and blue-and-white board shorts. He had on slippers. On his mortarboard he wrote: "12-0. WAC champions!"
"When I was in New York" for last week's Heisman ceremony, Brennan said, "I looked like a New Yorker. Now that I'm in Hawai'i, when I knew I was graduating, I wanted to look like I was in Hawai'i. I wanted to wear board shorts and a T-shirt. I'm ready to head to the beach."
After the ceremony, the UH football graduates met in the hospitality room for a group picture.
"He's really made us proud," said his grandmother, Sharon Jefferies. "We're so thankful he ended up in Hawai'i. There are good people here, and they welcomed him with open arms. It's been good for him."
Visit Tsai's blog at www.HawaiiWarriorBeat.com.
Reach Stephen Tsai at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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