Updated at 12:35 p.m., Friday, September 14, 2007
Colt Brennan's career has been all over the map
By Wendell Barnhouse
McClatchy-Tribune News Service
The Hawai'i quarterback's hair is close-cropped and bleached blond. Black blobs representing the Hawaiian Islands stretch from above his neck to above his right ear.
The other side is blank. Room for an image of the Heisman Trophy, perhaps?
That Brennan wears a map under his helmet is appropriate. The senior has been everywhere. He has been nowhere. This week, he was in Houston with his teammates.
Instead of frequent flying between The Islands and The States, the Warriors have spent 12 days in Sweat City prepping for last Saturday's game at Louisiana Tech and this Saturday's game at Nevada-Las Vegas.
The 24-year-old Brennan set the Division I-A single-season record for touchdown passes last season (58) and finished sixth in the Heisman voting. With 103 career TD passes, he's on pace to pass Ty Detmer's career mark of 121 at BYU.
If the numbers pile up and Hawai'i becomes this season's Boise State, can Brennan make a serious run at winning the Heisman?
"Because of the success last year, I think there will be more acceptance," Brennan said this week. "But it really comes down to us having a flawless year, making no mistakes."
TURNING HIS LIFE AROUND
Brennan knows about mistakes and flaws. There is a reason why a player of Brennan's abilities is playing in Hawai'i, a paradise that is a college football purgatory, playing home games that finish in the middle of the night.
His travels and travails started as a freshman walk-on at Colorado, where the former high school backup to Matt Leinart earned the nickname "Johnny All-American" for his enthusiasm and performance as a scout-team quarterback.
In January 2004, an intoxicated Brennan walked into a woman's dorm room and refused to leave. He eventually pleaded guilty to second-degree burglary and first-degree criminal trespass. A charge of unwanted sexual contact was dropped because of lack of evidence.
"It all comes back to me. I put myself in that position," Brennan said. "I was cocky. I was arrogant. I was guilty of not making mature and responsible decisions."
Brennan eventually spent seven nights in jail. He spent one night with a cellmate who had been charged with attempted murder. Brennan experienced "Scared Straight" first hand.
"My life was so rocked and shocked that all my dreams of playing college football came to a standstill," he said.
His first season of post-high school football came at Saddleback (Calif.) Community College. Brennan played every game as if it was his last.
BRENNAN'S ACCURACY PRAISED BY COACHES
Hawai'i's coaching staff discovered Brennan while looking at a game tape of a Saddleback receiver. It was the happiest accident in the program's history.
Hawai'i coach June Jones, a former NFL quarterback and coach, says Brennan is one of the best quarterbacks he has seen. What has made the 6-foot-3, 205-pound Brennan so effective in Hawai'i's spread offense is his accuracy.
Last season, Brennan completed 72.6 percent of his passes. The coaching staff counted 54 passes that were dropped. Had those been receptions, Brennan's completion percentage would have been at 82.
"Those weren't dropped balls that were hard to catch, either," Jones told the New York Times. "They were right in the receivers' hands. I played five years in the NFL and one in Canada. I can't go out there against air with a receiver and hit 80 of 100 passes. He did it in a real game with defenses chasing him."
Brennan's accuracy is a combination of mechanics (quick release, strong arm, solid foot work) and natural ability. Hawai'i quarterbacks coach Dan Morrison says Brennan's "vectoring" his ability to see where the pass needs to go and his ability to get it there borders on the sublime. He can make it look easy.
Morrison credits Brennan's accuracy with allowing Hawai'i to score touchdowns instead of field goals when the Warriors reach the red zone. For many spread offenses, getting six instead of three inside the 20-yard line is difficult.
"A lot of his throws (down there) are in tight quarters," Morrison said. "He can make unbelievably accurate throws that many quarterbacks can't. You can see his accuracy all over the field but particularly when we get close to the end zone.
"Colt can throw it exactly where he wants to."
TOOK LOCAL CULTURE TO HEART
Before Brennan arrived in Honolulu, Morrison advised him the Polynesian culture values humility.
"He came in and took that to heart," Morrison said. "Most players are tuned in internally. Colt is more an external thinker, seeing what's around him."
Brennan took a class in Samoan and at times calls audibles in the language. His receivers wear dreadlocks; over the summer, Brennan did the same before going for the short-cropped, bleach-blonde look.
Brennan, who has 18 months remaining on his four-year probation, could have played the victim card. He could have turned his back on a second chance. He could have allowed the bitterness to sour his outlook.
"I realized that my greatest way of redemption would be to do something great with my life," he said. "I just had to go on with my life, salvage my life and be a good person. That's what I'm trying to do."
"Colt is who he is because of his trials and tribulations," Morrison said. "He's been tempered and forged by what he's been through. If not for all that, I don't know if he would be the person or the quarterback he is now."