Among College QBs, He Was Truly Great. So Was His Downfall

'Sports Illustrated' has the story of Colt Brennan
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 6, 2021 4:20 PM CDT
Among College QBs, He Was Truly Great. So Was His Downfall
In this Nov. 23, 2007, file photo, then-Hawaii quarterback Colt Brennan celebrates after an NCAA college football game in Honolulu.   (AP Photo/Ronen Zilberman, File)

Colt Brennan's story is a wrenching one, and Brandon Sneed tells it in detail for Sports Illustrated. Sneed calls Brennan "one of college football’s all-time great quarterbacks"—indeed, in 2007 the Hawaii player narrowly missed receiving the Heisman award. He had 31 NCAA passing records to his name and was beloved by people on the islands. But there were hints of trouble, too, in the form of excessive drinking and pot smoking. He told his sister that he struggled with what had happened prior to Hawaii. He was a walk-on in Colorado, and one drunken night he "made some catastrophic decisions": entering a female student's dorm room and allegedly exposing himself and trying to force himself on her. He was convicted of felony burglary and trespassing charges. Hawaii brought him purpose and joy, but his final season at the school didn't go well: concussions and an injury.

He was a 6th-round draft pick for Washington but was dropped two years later; the Raiders signed him and released him after a month. But then came Nov. 19, 2010. He was a passenger in his girlfriend's car in Hawaii; she drove into oncoming traffic while using her phone. He broke his leg and a slew of other bones. The drug use increased as his legs, "ravaged by neuropathy, were deteriorating." He was in and out of rehab for years until entering California's Tree House Recovery this January. It was a revelation, a place that used exercise to "prime the brain" for learning about how to rewire an addicted brain. "He was Colt again. He was back," says his mom. In May, he was nearing graduation and planning to open a Tree House Center in Hawaii, and on a Friday he journaled that he could at last see "a life filled with purpose and happiness." The overdose that would kill him happened three days later. (Read the full story, which digs deep into our understanding of addiction.)

Stories to sink your teeth into.
Get our roundup of longform stories every Saturday.
Sign up
Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.