Former Hawaii quarterback Colt Brennan dies at 37

Swipe left for more photos

2007 November 23 SPT - Hawaii’s Colt Brennan raises a finger in victory after an NCAA Football game between defending WAC Champions Boise State and Hawaii, Friday, Nov. 23, 2007, at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu. Hawaii held on to win 39-27, capturing the 2007 WAC title and handing Boise State their only loss of the season. Honolulu Star-Bulletin photo by Jamm Aquino.
STAR-ADVERTISER / 2005 University of Hawaii’s quarterback Colt Brennan passed against NMSU at Aloha Stadium.
Brennan was a patient at a rehabilitation facility when he was found unconscious a few days ago. He died on Monday at Hoag Hospital in Newport, Calif.

Former University of Hawaii quarterback and 2007 Heisman Trophy finalist Colt Brennan has died, according to his father Terry Brennan.

Colt Brennan, 37 was a patient at a rehabilitation facility when he was found unconscious a few days ago. He died on Monday at Hoag Hospital in Newport, Calif.

“He was doing so well, the spark was back in his eyes, and he was healthy and doing great, and it happened,” Terry Brennan said.

The elder Brennan said his son was in the fifth month of a six-month treatment program. Terry Brennan indicated his son left the facility and suggested a drug his son then ingested contributed to his death.

“Obviously, someone gave him a pain pill of some sort, but it was Fentanyl, according to what we’re understanding,” Terry Brennan said. “We’re still a long way from figuring it out. That’s where we are right now.”

Brennan was surrounded by family members when he died. “He went peacefully,” Terry Brennan said. “He listened to Bob Marley. His sisters had a lei around him when he was unconscious. They had the music of Bob Marley playing near his ear.”

Brennan was a fan of the reggae legend, reciting lyrics and often signing autographs, “one love.”

Brennan was the star of the Rainbow Warriors’ 12-0 regular season in 2007. He set several records and was invited to New York as one of four Heisman Trophy finalists that year. Brennan finished third in the voting.

It was Brennan’s announcement in 2007 that earned him “Colt” status. He announced he would forgo entering the 2007 NFL Draft and return to UH for his senior season. That announcement drew rousing enthusiasm throughout the state.

“I think one of the things I’ll never forget is Colt had an opportunity to come out (for the NFL draft) after his junior year,” former UH coach June Jones said in a telephone interview. “I said, ‘let me get the NFL to evaluate where you’re going to get drafted.’ They said, ‘you’re going to be a second-round pick.’ After getting that, he still decided to come back for that last year, which not many kids will do that. He had a lot of aloha for the state and his teammates. That was a pretty unreal gesture to do that for his teammates.”

That 2007 season, Brennan and his teammates became statewide celebrities. UH staged an autograph session in which lines to meet Brennan snaked from the grass practice field to the parking structure.

UH’s undefeated season merited an invitation to the Sugar Bowl on New Year’s Day in New Orleans in 2008. Hawaii lost to Georgia.

Brennan was selected by Washington in the 2008 draft.

In November 2010, he suffered severe injuries as a passenger in a head-on collision on the Big Island. After that, he struggled with a head injury, substance abuse and legal issues. But friends and teammates remembered Brennan for his generosity and appreciation of Hawaii’s cultures.

“The thing I loved about him is he had the biggest heart,” said Gerald Welch, a former UH slotback. “He loved the people of Hawaii. He embraced the people of Hawaii. He loved my family. He did a lot for us. He never wanted anything in return but our friendship and our love. He was probably one of the greatest who ever played at Hawaii. He brought Hawaii to heights it had never been before. He embraced the people of Hawaii. He loved to be here.”

Welch, who is Saint Louis School’s associate athletic director, remembered asking Brennan to serve as godfather to his son Slater.

“He was so excited to do it,” Welch said. “He lived with us for a time. Uncle Colt was a big brother to (my children). They took it hard. It was rough. We’re glad we got to enjoy the time we did have with him.”