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An Island of Confidence

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The Washington Post's Jason Reid talks about the development of rookie wide receiver Malcolm Kelly. Video by Jason Reid/The Washington PostPhotos: John McDonnell & Preston Keres/The Washington Post, AP, Getty Editor: Jonathan Forsythe/washingtonpost.com

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By Andrew Astleford
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, July 31, 2008

Go ahead, doubt him. Take the thought of Colt Brennan succeeding in the NFL and rip it, crumple it, toss it to the side like a wad of marked-up notebook paper.

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He has heard the criticism: He's too small. He's too fragile. He's a gunslinger. He's a system guy. He's a liability off the field.

He doesn't stand a chance.

"I think I learned more than anything how to battle adversity," Brennan said. "I'm the kind of guy where I have a chip on my shoulder and have tough skin. A lot of times, that's what you need in the fourth quarter to win games, and I think I have that. I have so much experience having to battle through adversity. I'm never nervous. I'm never scared."

Brennan, 24, has never been afraid to try to prove his critics wrong. For the Washington Redskins' brash rookie quarterback, training camp represents the latest episode in an effort to show he belongs among the game's elite.

His professional dreams began as a junior in high school. During Mater Dei (Calif.) High's spring game, Brennan led a team of reserves against the top unit, which featured Matt Leinart. Brennan snatched the spotlight, outperforming his more decorated teammate with precision passing to lead the reserves to a stunning victory. Later that day, Brennan's father, Terry, came home and greeted his son with an eager embrace.

"Man, if you can keep doing this," Brennan remembered his father saying, "you can play in the pros someday."

Someday didn't come without struggle. In 2004, as a freshman redshirt at Colorado, Brennan was sentenced to seven days in jail and four years probation and was dismissed from the team following convictions of criminal trespass and burglary after a female student accused him of forcing himself into her dorm room and fondling her. Later that year, he transferred to Saddleback (Calif.) Community College, where he played well but faced a hands-off reputation among prominent recruiters.

"There were so many negative times for me, and it was really unfair," Brennan said. "I was fighting through a lot of adversity. My main goal at that moment was to play football.

"I didn't care if I was [going to be] in the NFL. I just wanted to play somewhere, whether it was for a D-I college, a D-II college or in Canada."

Hawaii provided opportunity. June Jones, the Warriors' coach at the time, allowed Brennan to join the team as a walk-on before the 2005 season. Brennan excelled in Jones's run-and-shoot scheme, averaging 373.9 passing yards per game and setting numerous NCAA records over three seasons.

Gaudy numbers weren't enough to pacify doubts among professional scouts. After disappointing performances in the Sugar Bowl and Senior Bowl, critics drew comparisons to high-profile flameouts such as Ty Detmer and Andre Ware. He was a system quarterback, some said, flashy college fool's gold incapable of adapting to the NFL.


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