Colt Brennan: Hawaii's Legendary Quarterback
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Colt Brennan was a record-setting quarterback who played college football for the University of Hawaii Rainbow Warriors from 2005 to 2007. He finished his career with numerous NCAA records and accolades, including a third-place finish in Heisman Trophy voting in 2007.

Early Life and Football Beginnings

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Colt Brennan's passion for football began at a young age. As a child, he was obsessed with Monday Night Football and would always talk about the sport during show-and-tell at school. His teachers would have to steer him away from the subject. At Mater Dei High School, Brennan backed up future Heisman winner Matt Leinart as a junior. He was named the starter his senior year and was eager for his grandfather, whom he called "Papa", to watch him play. However, Papa passed away from an aortic aneurysm two weeks before Brennan's senior season began, never getting the chance to see him start. Mater Dei struggled to a 1-3 start that year as Brennan had difficulty finding his rhythm, bouncing passes off the ground. The loss of his grandfather weighed heavily on him mentally and emotionally. As a result, college recruiters lost interest in Brennan. After graduating, he spent a postgraduate year at Worcester Academy in Massachusetts where he continued to develop his skills. Despite his talent, he failed to garner much attention from college programs beyond an offer from Utah State out of high school. He ultimately decided to walk on at the University of Colorado, hoping to earn a scholarship.
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College Football Career

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Brennan's college football career spanned three schools. He began as a walk-on at the University of Colorado in 2002, redshirting his first year. In 2004, after legal troubles led to his dismissal from Colorado, Brennan transferred to Saddleback College. There he repaired his image, earning honorable mention JUCO All-America honors while leading Saddleback to a conference championship. Brennan's biggest success came at the University of Hawaii, where he walked on in 2005 and went on to rewrite the record books. In three seasons as a starter from 2005-2007, he broke or tied 31 NCAA records, including the single-season mark for touchdown passes (58) and career TD passes (131). His 2006 season was one for the ages - 5,549 passing yards and 58 TDs while leading the nation in total offense, passing efficiency, and numerous other categories. Brennan capped off his Hawaii career with a stellar 2007 season, finishing third in the Heisman Trophy voting. He led the Rainbow Warriors to an undefeated 12-0 regular season before losing to Georgia in the Sugar Bowl. By the time his college career ended, Brennan had established himself as one of the most prolific passers in NCAA history.
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College Stats Breakdown

Colt Brennan put up impressive numbers during his college football career:
SeasonTeamPassingRushing
CmpAtt
2004Saddleback177259
2005Hawaii350515
2006Hawaii406559
2007Hawaii359510
CareerNCAA1,1151,584
Over his NCAA career, Brennan completed 70.4% of his passes for 14,193 yards and 131 touchdowns. He still holds the NCAA record for career completion percentage. In his three seasons at Hawaii from 2005-2007, Brennan threw for over 4,000 yards and at least 35 touchdowns each year, including an incredible 5,549 yards and 58 touchdowns in 2006. He was also an effective runner, rushing for 15 touchdowns in his career. Brennan's prolific passing numbers rank among the best in NCAA history and underscore his mastery of Hawaii's high-powered offense under head coach June Jones.
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Career Overview

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Here is a summary of Colt Brennan's professional football career after being drafted out of the University of Hawaii:
  • Drafted by the Washington Redskins in the 6th round (186th overall) of the 2008 NFL Draft, the 10th quarterback selected.
  • Signed a 4-year, $1.8 million contract with the Redskins in July 2008.
  • Impressed in the 2008 preseason, leading all NFL rookies in touchdown passes (3), passing yards (411), and passer rating (109.9) while completing 67.9% of his passes.
  • Placed on injured reserve in September 2009 with a torn hamstring and hip injury, ending his season. Released by the Redskins in August 2010.
  • Signed with the Oakland Raiders in August 2010 but was cut a month later without playing in a regular season game.
  • Joined the Hartford Colonials of the United Football League in June 2011, but the team suspended operations before the season began.
  • Signed with the Saskatchewan Roughriders of the Canadian Football League in February 2012 but was released in June before the regular season.
  • Assigned to the Los Angeles Kiss of the Arena Football League in October 2013 but was cut in March 2014 after being diagnosed with a brain injury from a 2010 car crash.
Despite a promising preseason as a rookie, Brennan never played in a regular season NFL game due to injuries and was unable to stick with teams in the CFL and AFL. His professional football career was ultimately cut short by the lingering effects of a serious car accident in 2010.

Awards and Accolades

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bigislandgazette.com
Here is a summary of Colt Brennan's major awards and honors during his college football career:
  • 2x First-team All-WAC (2006–2007)
  • 2x WAC Offensive Player of the Year (2006–2007)
  • 2x Third-team AP All-American (2006–2007)
  • 2x Davey O'Brien Award finalist (2006)
  • Sammy Baugh Trophy winner (2006)
  • Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award finalist (2007)
  • Heisman Trophy finalist - finished 3rd in voting (2007)
Brennan's numerous accolades reflect his record-breaking performances and the national recognition he brought to the University of Hawaii football program during his three seasons as the starting quarterback from 2005 to 2007.
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Personal Struggles and Controversies

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Brennan faced significant personal struggles and controversies throughout his life. In 2004, while at the University of Colorado, he was arrested after entering a female student's dorm room uninvited and allegedly exposing himself, a charge Brennan denied. He was convicted of felony burglary and trespassing, serving one week in jail and receiving probation until graduation. After his football career, Brennan continued to battle substance abuse and addiction. He had multiple arrests, including DUIs, and spent time in rehabilitation facilities. In 2010, he was seriously injured in a car accident in Hawaii. Brennan sought treatment for his addictions numerous times, including a 60-day inpatient program, but continued to relapse. His family noted the "excruciating struggle to break Colt Brennan's endless cycle of addiction: drinking and drugs, arrests and alienations, apologies and vows to change." In the months before his death in 2021, Brennan made efforts to rebuild his life. He wrote a letter to his parents taking responsibility for his actions and expressing his desire to make them proud again. However, he ultimately succumbed to an accidental drug overdose in May 2021 at age 37. Fentanyl was found in his system, which his father believes Colt consumed unintentionally.
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Tragic Overdose Death

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On May 10, 2021, Colt Brennan was found unconscious in a hotel room in Newport Beach, California after ingesting fentanyl. He was hospitalized but passed away the following day at the age of 37. In the hours before his death, Brennan had attempted to enter a detox program at Hoag Hospital in Newport Beach with his father's assistance. However, the hospital turned him away due to a lack of available beds and failed to contact Brennan's father as promised. Brennan's tragic passing prompted an outpouring of grief and remembrances. Hawaii governor David Ige stated, "He will always be remembered for his brilliance, his leadership and how he and his team brought the people of Hawaii together during that exciting and memorable 2007 season." The circumstances surrounding Brennan's death highlight the ongoing opioid epidemic and the challenges individuals struggling with addiction face in accessing timely treatment and support. His untimely passing at a young age underscores the devastating impact of substance abuse.
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CTE Confirmed Posthumously

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After his death in May 2021, Colt Brennan's brain was examined by researchers at the CTE Center at Boston University. The post-mortem analysis revealed that Brennan had Stage 1 chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative brain disease linked to repeated head trauma. Doctors told Brennan's family that repeated hits, starting from youth football, could have contributed to the CTE diagnosis. In addition to CTE, the examination found significant traumatic brain injuries in multiple parts of Brennan's brain, including a massive gap in the membrane connecting the two sides of the brain and tissue loss in his right frontal lobe caused by a 2010 car accident. These factors, combined with the CTE, likely contributed to the challenges Brennan faced in his later years, including impulse control issues and substance abuse. The CTE diagnosis adds a layer of complexity to Brennan's story, highlighting the long-term effects of football on players' health. Treating individuals with traumatic brain injuries and CTE symptoms is a tremendous challenge, as there are limited ways to identify and address these issues effectively. Understanding that Brennan's struggles were the result of brain injuries, rather than character flaws, provides important context for his life and the difficulties he encountered.
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Closing Thoughts

Colt Brennan will be remembered as one of the greatest quarterbacks in college football history. His prolific passing numbers and record-breaking performances at the University of Hawaii from 2005-2007 revolutionized the program and captivated fans. Brennan's pinpoint accuracy, quick release, and mastery of Hawaii's run-and-shoot offense allowed him to put up video game-like statistics. In just three seasons, Brennan set numerous NCAA records, including the career marks for touchdown passes (131) and completion percentage (70.4%). His 2006 season was one for the ages - 5,549 passing yards and 58 touchdowns. Brennan turned Hawaii into a points-scoring juggernaut that lit up scoreboards and garnered national attention. Beyond the gaudy numbers, Brennan helped elevate Hawaii football to unprecedented heights. He led the Rainbow Warriors to an undefeated 12-0 regular season in 2007 and a berth in the Sugar Bowl, putting the program on the map. Brennan finished third in the Heisman Trophy voting that year, the highest finish ever by a Hawaii player. While his NFL career never materialized, Brennan's college accomplishments remain legendary. He proved that a kid from California could go to Hawaii and not only set records, but have a transformational impact. Brennan's legacy endures through the memories of his thrilling performances and the mark he left on Hawaii football. His tragic passing in 2021 sparked an outpouring of tributes and remembrances from teammates, coaches, and fans. Colt Brennan was a once-in-a-generation talent whose brilliance on the field was undeniable. The gunslinging quarterback with the surfer good looks was a football star who inspired a team and a state. While his life was cut short, Brennan's place in college football lore is forever secure as one of the most electrifying players to ever sling the pigskin.
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