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January 1, 2008
Brennan to close out comeback in Sugar Bowl
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NEW ORLEANS - When he slips on his white No. 15 Hawaii jersey for the final time, Colt Brennan will close his remarkable college career.
He has already left his mark on the game with 29 NCAA records, making him the most prolific passer in college football history. He also has led the Warriors (12-0) to the Sugar Bowl to face Georgia on Tuesday night.
For Brennan, it's never been about records. All he wanted was an opportunity to prove himself. He's done that to a point, but never on a stage this big, with a nation watching and with so much at stake.
"I look back and it's crazy how much success I've had," Brennan said. "I realize that you're only good as your last game and my last game happens to be Sugar Bowl against one of the best teams in the country. This game has a huge impact on how I'll be remembered and how my career will be looked at."
Brennan has gone from ex-con to Hawaii hero in his storied career.
He's Hawaii's biggest sporting icon and ambassador since Duke Kahanamoku, an Olympic gold medal swimmer and surfing star.
"He's a rock star in Hawaii," Warriors defensive coordinator Greg McMackin said.
And Brennan has been swamped by fans every where he goes in the Big Easy. Georgia defensive tackle Geno Atkins even hit Brennan up for a picture.
It's not necessarily the 23 victories Brennan has racked up in the last two seasons that made him a star. It's how Brennan has won by overcoming tremendous challenges, even when things looked grim, on the football field and in his personal life.
As a freshman at the University of Colorado, he was kicked off the football team after a woman made accusations against him. Brennan was convicted of burglary and trespass for not leaving her dorm promptly and was sentenced to seven days in the Boulder County jail. Sexual assault charges were dismissed.
Brennan is still haunted, which prevents him from fully relishing his Sugar Bowl experience.
"That whole situation in Colorado has left me numb for a long time. It's hard to feel now, which is a good thing and bad thing," he said. "It's easy to block out negativity. It's easy to block out the bad things, but it's harder to enjoy the good things."
Brennan is humble, unafraid to speak the truth and has been tremendous for youth in Hawaii. While he's often called a role model, he notes that he also carries another title.
"I'm a convicted felon," said Brennan, whose probation ended Dec. 16, the same day he graduated with a degree in communications.
Brennan called himself "real," for facing and overcoming adversity.
"Just like my story, this team is real," he said. "We've come back from 21, we've come back deficits that people would have never come back from."
While the Bulldogs are making their ninth Sugar Bowl appearance, this is the Warriors' first bowl game outside the Aloha State since the 1992 Holiday Bowl
This isn't just the most important game in the 98-year history of Hawaii's program that finished 0-12 in 1998. It's the biggest sporting event in Hawaii history.
Warriors coach June Jones said he wants his players confident, but not "too jacked."
"We have to play like we belong and hopefully we will," he said.
For many football fans, this will be their first look at the Warriors, who play most of their games while the nation sleeps.
"I'm trying to go out there and show a lot of people what they missed out on the last three years," said Brennan, who withdrew from the NFL draft to return for his senior season.
Brennan has completed 71 percent of his passes for 14,024 yards and an-NCAA record 131 TDs.
"If we don't get to him, it's going to be a very long game," Bulldogs defensive end Marcus Howard said. "He can throw it long. He can throw it short. It's like a run-and-gun offense."
Howard said Brennan has great accuracy and a quick release.
"Then you combine that with his great receivers, that's a challenge," he said.
McMackin, a former NFL defensive coordinator, said Brennan has a bright future in the NFL. That's despite critics who say he's too thin, a product of the system or has an unconventional release.
"I'm glad we're not playing Colt," McMackin said. "Colt Brennan is a big-time player. I think he's underestimated, really."
Brennan believes a victory over Georgia would validate his career. But he says what is more important, it would give the Warriors some respect.
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