FL MORRIS / FMORRIS@STARBULLETIN.COM
Hawaii quarterback Colt Brennan wiped away a tear yesterday when his teammates erupted in cheers after his announcement that he would stay at the Stan Sheriff Center. Brennan announced his decision to play another year at UH and forgo the NFL draft. CLICK FOR LARGE
Colt won't bolt
Loyalty wins out for the UH quarterback, who honors the team that gave him his break
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June Jones told Colt Brennan to go with his gut.
In the end he went with his heart.
"That's why, those guys right there," Brennan said, pointing to his University of Hawaii football teammates.
A group of about 25 Warriors -- along with about 50 other people -- had just roared in approval yesterday after Brennan announced he would be back to lead them again this fall.
Brennan had spent the three weeks since the end of his record-breaking 2006 season struggling with a happy but wrenching dilemma. He could either go to the NFL -- where he could become an instant millionaire and fulfill his childhood dream -- or return to college and one more year in Hawaii with Jones and his teammates.
In the end, loyalty won out.
"I feel like Coach Jones and the University of Hawaii gave me an opportunity at a time when no one else would. I've been a part of something special these last few years. I plan to come back my senior year," Brennan announced at a news conference, choking back a sob on the last few words.
When Brennan arrived at UH in the summer of 2005, it was as a walk-on. He had been dismissed from Colorado because of a well-documented dorm incident. After a season of junior college football, Jones was one of the few coaches willing to give Brennan a second chance.
In the two years since, Brennan has shined on and off the field. He broke numerous school and NCAA records while leading the Warriors to an 11-3 record in 2006, one of the best marks in school history. And his positive personality as much as his outlandish stats charmed an entire state of UH fans.
"We're very proud of what Colt has done," Jones said, "but I'm more proud of how he's handled himself. He has a command about being a quarterback and a leader. It's a very hard decision."
Brennan said he went back and forth before finally making his choice on Tuesday. He postponed his announcement twice and sought Jones' counsel several times.
He asked me, 'Where do you think I'll go?' I told him, and I'll tell you -- I didn't want to before because I didn't want to be the reason he went -- I told him, 'I know what they're going to do. They're going to line up every pass Brady Quinn has thrown, every pass he has thrown, every pass the kid Russell's thrown, every pass the guy Troy Smith has thrown. ... You're going to be the first quarterback taken.'"
If Jones is right, that means Brennan turned down a signing bonus of more than $10 million.
"To make this decision shows a lot about his heart for Hawaii, for the fans, for the people and for his teammates and the school. I think that kind of says it all about Colt Brennan," Jones said.
Offensive lineman Hercules Satele was among those at the news conference. He is one of the more stoic of the Warriors, but he was flooded with positive emotions after Brennan's announcement.
"Relief. Happiness. Excitement. I can't wait for the next season," Satele said. "I kind of heard a lot of rumors and ideas, but I always hoped that he stayed."
Selflessness was a trademark as the Warriors enjoyed one of their best seasons ever.
"(Brennan's choice) shows what we've tried to instill as coaches," Jones said. "It's about the other guy, not about yourself."
Brennan said he talked to several teammates during the process.
"I was back home in California and kind of figured what I was going to do. Then things transpired and it got kind of crazy, like I might leave actually," Brennan said. "And then I felt kind of bad, so I didn't want to call them as much, kind of keep a distance. Now I can call them."
Receiver Ryan Grice-Mullins was among those Brennan communicated with while trying to figure out what to do.
"We mostly talked about other things. I knew lots of people were asking him what he was going to do, so I didn't want to put that on him," Grice-Mullins said.
Yesterday, a few minutes before Brennan made his announcement, he had a casual conversation with Grice-Mullins.
"We just talked about school and stuff," Grice-Mullins said. "But then, as he walked away, he gave me a wink. That's when I knew he was coming back."
As Brennan began to speak at his news conference, it quickly became apparent what his choice was before he actually said it.
"It's been a lifelong dream to play in the NFL," he said, "but that's not my top consideration in making my decision."
That was when everybody knew.