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Ex-Hawaii QB battles for Redskins job
There is plenty of standing and waiting, lots of watching and learning.
Less than a year removed from being a college football rock star, Colt Brennan is now just another rookie fighting for a job in the NFL.
Gone are the wacky hairstyles and the endless interview requests. The days of being a cover boy for national magazines and a symbol of hope for the little guys in college football are no more.
Brennan has swapped his signature all-black duds at Hawaii, complete with matching helmet visor, for the simple burgundy-and-gold practice uniform and logo-less headgear of a first-year member of the Washington Redskins.
There are no braids, no facsimiles of the state of Hawaii in his hair anymore either.
"This [current look] is usually how I am. I'm not really a loud kind of guy in a sense," Brennan said. "I was kind of put on a pedestal out there in Hawaii, and I wanted to show everyone that I could have fun with it and embarrass myself. Right now I am just trying to get a job and play the game."
Brennan lit up college football for three seasons with numbers that would be unthinkable even in a video game. He tossed 58 touchdown passes - in his junior season alone. That was just one of 31 NCAA records he now owns.
After that junior season, some draft pundits pegged him as a first- or second-round prospect. He returned to Hawaii for his senior year, and all he did was lead the Warriors to a perfect regular season and a spot in a BCS bowl game.
It was a fairy tale, a story of redemption for a talented kid from Southern California who nearly ruined his life one intoxicated night in Colorado. Playing against Georgia in the Sugar Bowl could have been a coronation for Brennan's college career.
Instead, the Warriors were hammered, and Brennan had the worst game of his career. The doubters, those who said Brennan's spectacular production existed only because he played in coach June Jones' wild system, began to poke holes in his draft stock.
Then he struggled at the Senior Bowl. It didn't help that Brennan tore the labrum in his hip the first day or practice and continued to play through it. Individual workouts didn't go much better, and his chances to be drafted in the first or second rounds disappeared. He finally had surgery on his hip after his pro day at Hawaii, but the damage had been done.
The guy who was a two-time Heisman Trophy finalist watched as 185 names were called before Brennan, including those of nine quarterbacks.
"I think I definitely got a bad deal. I think a lot of people jumped [off] the bandwagon on me," Brennan said. "It is amazing how people will allow one game to take down or discredit everything you'd done."
Still, draft weekend pales in comparison to the depths his life had reached a few years before. Brennan was charged with a variety of crimes after a night in a Boulder, Colo., dorm room in 2004. He was acquitted of the most severe charges but convicted of first-degree criminal trespassing and second-degree burglary and was sentenced to seven days in jail along with four years of probation.
Shortly after the incident he was kicked out of Colorado and spent a year at a junior college close to home before Jones offered him a second chance and helped make him a star.
"I've always wished the media would go and pull up my courtroom records and see exactly what happened," Brennan said. "From Day 1, I'd say 98 percent of what you read about what happened to me at Colorado is a lie. The media has just never been very fair to me with that situation. They've always just read other articles and then they wouldn't write it up correctly.
"When somebody does take the time to pull out the courtroom records and pulls out what happened to me, they're going to see a much different light. They're going to see a young kid who was taken advantage of. They're going to see a young kid who made a mistake, but what happened and transpired after he made that mistake wasn't right."
Now Brennan's challenges are simpler, like learning the intricacies of the West Coast offense and earning a spot on the Redskins' roster in a battle with Derek Devine, who spent last training camp with Jim Zorn in Seattle.
He is certainly going to need time to develop. One pass during a drill flutters into the arms of a defender, which earns a quick talk with Zorn or assistant coach Chris Meidt. The next one zips perfectly through traffic to the intended target.
Patience and time, with starter Jason Campbell and backup Todd Collins firmly entrenched, are attributes Brennan can have.
"He's got a quarterback's swagger, and he knows how to play the game," Meidt said. "He was in the ol' fun-'n'-gun. It was shotgun, pitter-patter around and when someone gets open, chuck it to them. Now he's under center, he has to drop and throw on rhythm."
Brennan's experience with the NFL Draft process did not go well, and it can partly be attributed to him being misunderstood. There are several preconceived notions about him that really aren't true:
Myth No. 1: Brennan has to "learn" how to take a snap under center after his days in the shotgun at Hawaii.
Reality: His only experience not under center was at Hawaii. During high school, a year at prep school, a year at Colorado and a year at junior college, he played in a more traditional offense.
Myth No. 2: Brennan's poor showing against Georgia in the Sugar Bowl (22-for-38, 169 yards, three interceptions) proves he can't play against elite, NFL-type competition.
Reality: He carved up several BCS teams in his three years, including a 559-yard, five-touchdown showing against Arizona State and a 42-for-50, 442-yard, five-score outing against Washington. He also topped 400 yards against Wisconsin, Purdue and Oregon State.
Myth No. 3: Brennan will struggle with the cold weather.
Reality: He spent a year at Worcester (Mass.) Academy and a year in Boulder, Colo. He has played and practiced in bad weather before.
"It is football - everybody tries to make it into a complex thing but when it all comes down to it, it's about being a football player," Brennan said. "That's something that no matter where I've been - California, Boston, Colorado or Hawaii - I've always been a great football player. I'm just looking to prove that again at this level."
Brennan had only one year as the starting quarterback at Mater Dei High School in Santa Anna, Calif., because Matt Leinart was a year his elder. The two have remained good friends, and they were able to hang out together last week at the ESPYs in Los Angeles.
It was a last reprieve in his role as a college football superhero before returning to his new life as a guy just trying to survive in the NFL.
"[Leinart] is a guy whenever I really need advice that I can definitely turn to," Brennan said. "Now, though. it is kind of like I am on my own and it is time for me to grow up and just show everybody I belong."
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