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Hawaii football legend Colt Brennan, who led an unforgettable era for UH, dies at 37

Updated: May. 11, 2021 at 10:36 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Colt Brennan, the record-setting quarterback and Heisman Trophy finalist who led the University of Hawaii football team to unprecedented heights during his time with the Warriors, has died at 37 years old.

Brennan died early Tuesday morning at a California hospital following a drug overdose.

Brennan’s father, Terry, told Hawaii News Now that his son had ingested something laced with fentanyl and never regained consciousness. Colt Brennan had earlier been in a rehabilitation facility.

“We’re working with the local police department on getting their reports and trying to put the pieces back together,” his father said.

Gov. David Ige was among the hundreds who offered their condolences Tuesday to Brennan’s family, saying that “Colt Brennan electrified the entire state of Hawaii at the peak of his college career.”

“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,” Ige said.

Colt Brennan’s decision to come to the islands after a championship career at Saddleback College in California marked the beginning of a legendary run in Manoa, a series of team successes that hadn’t been reached before ― and haven’t since.

The side-armed slinger, along with receivers like Davone Bess and Ryan Grice-Mullen, led an overpowering offense that helped Hawaii win the Hawaii Bowl in 2006 ― Brennan passed for 53 touchdowns in a single season that year ― and finish the regular season undefeated a season later.

Brennan was named the WAC Offensive Player of the Year in 2007, when the Warriors won a WAC championship, but later fell to Georgia in the Sugar Bowl in the final game of the year.

Brennan finished that 2007 campaign as a Heisman Trophy finalist, the first player to do so in Hawaii football history. In a game against Boise State that season, he became the NCAA’s all-time leader in touchdown passes ― one of many records he’d hold at the end of his storied career.

“He was so iconic that people refer to that as the Colt Brennan era,” said Rich Miano, a former assistant coach at the University of Hawaii while Brennan was a Warrior.

Miano says Brennan’s star burned more brightly at Hawaii than any player he’d ever seen.

“You talk about Tiger Woods, you talk about Tom Brady, you talk about LeBron James, he was that popular in the state of Hawaii,” said Miano. “You’d pull up at a McDonald’s and all of a sudden there was a line out the door. I have never seen that at any level of any sport at the University (of Hawaii).”

June Jones, head coach at the time, remembers Brennan as someone who brought so much to Hawaii as the face of UH football for almost three years.

“Nobody will ever touch what he accomplished for all of us,” Jones wrote, in a statement.

“His decision to stay in school for his senior year meant so much to his teammates and the fans of Warrior football. It united his teammates and the entire state which led us to our 12-0 season and our Sugar Bowl appearance. RIP Colt.”

In 2008, Brennan was selected by the Washington Redskins in the 6th round of the NFL Draft. Despite playing well in the preseason, Brennan did not see regular season action that year, and his 2009 campaign was cut short by an injury.

Then, during the 2010 offseason, Brennan would suffer an injury away from the football field that would change his life.

He and his then-girlfriend were involved in a car crash on Hawaii Island that left him hospitalized ― and changed, Brennan once said.

“All I know is I woke up, six, seven days later,” Brennan would later say on an episode of a TV show that chronicled the LA KISS, for whom he’d later play football.

“I badly broke my collarbone, and on the X-rays it was just like (crack) all the way down my left side. I woke up and I was, and I still am, a different person.”

Those close to him believed that the car accident was the root cause of a series of legal troubles he would experience later in his life, including multiple arrests for driving under the influence of an intoxicant.

In recent years, Brennan worked to try and give back to local football communities, volunteering with the Kahuku High School football team and a number of other youth organizations across the state.

Brennan’s father said his son had spent about five months in rehab, and was close to completing the program when he left with about a month to go.

The decision was apparently part of Brennan’s years-long struggle with addiction.

Michael Green was Brennan’s attorney for many of his run-ins with law enforcement.

“He came to me with various legal problems but it was never an attorney-client relationship, he was my friend,” Green said, adding he was honored to have helped Brennan.

Brennan’s most recent arrest in Hawaii was last year, when he was taken into custody for trespassing at a Kona hotel.

In 2019, Brennan was arrested for a drunk driving crash on Oahu’s windward side. He rear-ended a woman then fled the scene.

Brenann was also arrested for drunk driving in 2012. His blood alcohol content was more than twice the legal limit.

Terry Brennan said his son had straightened some things out and was trying. He was at Tree House Recovery, a treatment center in Cost Mesa, Calif.

“He just, in a lot of cases, made some poor decisions and as we all know, poor decisions lead to bad results,” he said.

“He can rest peacefully now. We know he’s in good hands with the Lord.”

This story will be updated.

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