Colt Brennan, the former Mater Dei (Santa Ana) quarterback who went on to a stellar career at the University of Hawaii, died at the age of 37 early on the morning of Tuesday, May 11. His father, Terry, made the announcement.
Additional media reports indicated that Brennan died at Hoag Hospital in Newport Beach. He was brought there due to a drug overdose. Brennan, who didn’t play in the NFL, also had been in the fifth month of a six-month drug rehab program.
Brennan graduated from Mater Dei High School of Santa Ana in 2002. While with the Monarchs, he patiently waited his turn to run the offense, as the backup to Matt Leinart, until he graduated. In 2001, his senior year, Brennan took over the reins of the program and led the Monarchs to an 8-5 overall record and a spot in the CIF Southern Section playoffs. He finished his prep career with impressive passing statistics — 166-of-253 (65.6%) for 2,079 yards and 13 touchdowns. In all, Brennan earned three letters in football and one in basketball. He helped Mater Dei advance to the league championship in basketball as a senior. He was also selected to play in the Orange County Football All-Star Game.
“Today is a very sad day for myself and for Monarch Nation,” said Mater Dei head coach Bruce Rollinson in message the school posted on Twitter. “The passing of Colt Brennan, one of our greatest quarterbacks and a Heisman Trophy finalist, is devastating and very difficult to process.:
Upon graduating from Mater Dei, Brennan attended Worcester Academy in Massachusetts for a postgraduate year. After a brief stop at Colorado where he redshirted, Brennan then transferred to nearby Saddleback College (Mission Viejo), where he earned one letter in football. While at Saddleback for the 2004 season, he completed 68 percent of his passes for 2,532 yards and 23 touchdowns with only four interceptions. Brennan was named All-Empire Conference First-Team. After his highly successful season, he received an offer from the University of Hawaii and enrolled on the Manoa campus.
After arriving at Hawaii, Brennan quickly flourished in head coach June Jones’ air-raid passing offense. Together, the two would lead the Warriors to a level of success that the program hadn’t enjoyed before, nor since. Brennan threw for 131 touchdowns over three seasons as a starter. His 2006 season stands as the benchmark for the high-octane style system. That season, he threw for 58 touchdowns (the second-most in NCAA single-season history) with a 72.6 completion percentage. That equated to an astounding 5,549 passing yards. He finished sixth in the Heisman Trophy voting that year and then in 2007 he was third behind Tim Tebow and Darren McFadden. In a game against Boise State that season, Brennan became the NCAA’s all-time leader in touchdown passes — one of many records he held at the end of his storied career. That mark wasn’t broken until the 2019 season when LSU’s Joe Burrow bested Brennan by two TD passes. Brennan also was a two-time Western Athletic Conference (WAC) Offensive Player of the Year winner (2006 & 2007).
The Warriors’ finest season ever was in 2007 as they were a perfect 12-0 in the regular season. That earned them a berth in the prestigious Sugar Bowl, part of the New Year’s Day BCS rotation. Georgia ended Hawaii’s hopes for an unblemished record, though, defeating the Warriors 41-10.
Brennan’s 70.4 percent career completion percentage is best all-time in NCAA Division I FBS history. In addition, his three seasons with more than 4,000 yards passing and number of games with 400-yards-or-more passing yards (20) are tied for most all time.
Brennan is survived by his parents, Terry and Betsy and sisters Carrera and Chanel.
Cal-Hi Sports sends its condolences to the Mater Dei football community.