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Sunday, June 26, 2005
"They were huge for me. Around the third or fourth game they had to make a decision after I was in court," Brennan said. "They said, 'This kid's doing good here as a person.' They could've cut me loose. They were getting a lot of heat, all kinds of pressure in the media. But (the school administration) met with my teachers and other people who knew me. They made a decision and they stood by me."
It is the kind of decision for which Hawaii coach June Jones is known. He is willing to take a chance on a prospect who doesn't have a perfect past if he is confident -- after getting to know the player and his family -- that the mishap is an aberration.
Star linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa, now a captain on the St. Louis Rams, is the prime example. UH was the only school not to withdraw its scholarship offer when Tinoisamoa was incarcerated for his part in a fight at a community fair while in high school. After a bumpy start academically, Tinoisamoa found his way and flourished at UH, especially on the field.
"That was a big point when they were recruiting me," said Brennan, who made an official visit to UH last fall. "They told me about Pisa and how this could be the right place for a second chance."
Brennan said he has encountered no negativity in Hawaii, just people who want to know his side of the story after reading about him on the Internet. They want to know about the guy who might be the Warriors' starting quarterback.
"Some people I meet don't know (about the case), but I think the majority do," he said. "Some ask me, I tell them the situation and they totally sympathize."
Of course, not everyone will feel sorry for Brennan, or believe he belongs on the UH football team, or even on campus.
ADRIANA RAMELLI is the director of the Sex Abuse Treatment Center affiliated with Kapiolani Medical Center for Women and Children.
"The bottom line is he was convicted. A crime was committed. It begs the question, 'Why does the university want to have this person as a role model on the football team?' Now he's part of the campus environment. Is he not a risk? I guess the university is willing to take on the responsibility of having him on campus," Ramelli said.
"You've got to be careful when you reduce it to a mistake," she added. "If someone breaks into my car, is that a mistake? This was a crime, and granted, I think the philosophy to help someone learn from that problem ... that can be great. But someone being drunk, that's what we hear often with sex crimes. Alcohol is often part of it. When someone has that behavior in their past, the university has to pay attention. The question should be back at the university."
UH spokeswoman Carolyn Tanaka said potential students are not asked about criminal history.
"We don't ask anything like that on the application form. Unless they volunteer the information, we would not know. It's not part of the application process," she said.
COLT BRENNAN hardly seemed like a menace to society as he chatted amiably last week about how he already loves Hawaii because of the accepting nature of the people -- including his competitors at quarterback.
It's no secret that Brennan and second-year freshman Tyler Graunke are favored to emerge as the quarterbacks who will play this fall, ahead of experienced veterans. Brennan said he was apprehensive about that.
"So far the other quarterbacks are great," he said. "It's surprising to me. They're so awesome, honest, great guys. They teach and explain. There's absolutely no hostility."
Although he has been officially accepted as a UH student, Brennan is not enrolled in summer school, so he has a lot of time to work out. He lifts and runs in the morning, then watches tape. After lunch, he watches more tape before unofficial passing drills with his future teammates.
While some of the players might go out for a beer after workouts, that is not an option for Brennan. Use of alcohol or drugs would be in violation of his probation.
"It is hard, because at my age it's a natural thing to want to have a drink or at least hang out, but I have to avoid those situations where I might get tempted," he said. "I know it's a cliché, but that's what guys in college do. But they (the legal system) still have all the say, and I'll do whatever they want me to do."
His girlfriend, Dominique Geisendorff, came from California to visit him last week. They met at Saddleback, where she was a cheerleader.
"I knew all about his situation," she said. "I didn't go into it with a preset mind. I got to know him and formed my own opinions. He's a great guy, and everyone deserves a second chance."
Terry Brennan said he never had discipline problems with his son.
"He was always great. Outgoing and friendly, but respectful. We never had trouble with him in the past, so this was certainly out of character," he said.
TWO FORMER Mater Dei quarterbacks will be at Aloha Stadium on Sept. 3 when Hawaii and USC open their seasons.
There was no reason to think there would be any until just a couple of months ago.
Brennan said he is surprised his friend and former high school teammate Matt Leinart decided to remain at USC for his senior season, instead of entering the NFL Draft after winning the Heisman Trophy. When they spoke recently, Leinart said he might regret that choice.
"He told me if he'd known more about the changes that were going to happen, Coach (Norm) Chow and the defensive coaches leaving, too, that might have made it different," Brennan said. "But at the same time, Matt Leinart loves SC. Even when he was fifth-string and not getting any love, he loved it."
Brennan rode the bench behind Leinart at Mater Dei before Leinart graduated a year before him.
"It was frustrating," Brennan said. "I didn't get to play, and everyone wants to be the one out there on Friday night getting the glory. It was instilled in me that I had an important job on the team, but still ... It was pretty neat seeing him progress."
Brennan is 6-foot-3 and around 200 pounds. He was 6-1 and 170 as a high school senior and was not heavily recruited. He went to a prep school in Massachusetts before walking on at Colorado.
His dream as a kid growing up in Southern California was to play for one of the big Los Angeles colleges, or at least some other Pac-10 school. Now, after criss-crossing the country, and surviving a tumultuous trip through the legal system, Brennan is close to getting his chance.
The possibility of starting that journey with Leinart as the opposing quarterback only proves how crazy life can be.
"He's on top of the world. I'm coming from the bottom up," Brennan said.