The Colt of Personality

As the Redskins prepare to face Carolina on Saturday, the team deals with the death of coach Joe Bugel's daughter, Holly, to cancer. Video by Jason Reid/The Washington PostProducer: Gaby Bruna/washingtonpost.comPhotos: The Washington Post, AP, Getty
By Mike Wise
Saturday, August 23, 2008

A handful of quarterbacks overcame sixth-round selections in the NFL draft to forge decent careers: Mark Rypien, Marc Bulger, Matt Hasselbeck and some scrawny guy from Michigan whom the Patriots gambled on.

Another who'd like to join that list stood outside the visitors' locker room in East Rutherford, N.J., last week, doing what Colt Brennan does:

Sweetening another of his raw deals, siphoning lemonade from the sourness of being selected so late, improvising -- always improvising -- when things get chaotic and don't go his way.

"Hey, if you don't go in the first you just wait for the sixth," he said in half-jest, months after Washington nabbed Hawaii's Heisman Trophy candidate with the 186th pick -- 185 slots lower than his college coach once told him he would go. "I mean, look at those guys. Tom Brady? You're money once you get in the sixth round."

Brennan began to laugh at his own logic. It was nearing midnight last Saturday, the night of his 25th birthday. Forty-five minutes earlier, he had caught the Jets' reserves in a blitz while running a two-minute drill at the end of the game. Brennan hit his hot read on the play, former Maryland tight end Jason Goode, across the middle, and Goode spun out of a tackle and sprinted 33 yards for the kind of pulsating, last-minute victory Brennan got used to in Hawaii, when the Warriors followed Boise State's 2007 lead into a Bowl Championship Series game.

He had the name and the game, breaking 31 NCAA records, becoming the most prolific touchdown passer in college football history, bringing the islands fame like only the late Don Ho could.

As perfect as Colt sounded for a quarterback with a gun of a right arm, Cult Brennan might have been more accurate. Because that's the kind of fanatical following his thrill-seeking play attracted.

"Charismatic," Jim Zorn, Washington's coach, calls him. "Colt is just one of those guys people like to be around and gravitate toward."

Even in three preseason games as a Redskins reserve, his penchant for flair, excitement and touchdowns against third-, fourth- and fifth-teamers can lead to clogged phone lines at WTEM radio (980 AM), where Steve Czaban, the co-host of the Sports Reporters' evening drive-time program, employs sound effects to catapult the flood of Colt callers into oblivion, as if to say, "Please, he's a third-string rookie. Call me if he's still in the league in two years."

Yes, unless the wheels completely come off Washington's bus offensively, Brennan knows the best time to see him play this season is tonight against Carolina and, especially, next Thursday at FedEx Field in the team's preseason finale against Jacksonville -- a game Jason Campbell, backup Todd Collins and other players will use to rest up for the season opener a week later.

But that's not what the last few months have been about for Brennan, the kid who, in two years, went from convicted felon in Colorado to Heisman finalist in Hawaii -- and still saw his draft stock plummet to depths not seen among prominent college quarterbacks since Florida State's Charlie Ward, who won the Heisman for Florida State but decided on an NBA career, or Nebraska's Tommy Frazier, who went undrafted and never played in the NFL.

"I just know there's been so much naysay and criticism involved around my name," Brennan said. "Every time I get a chance to go in there, it's really to prove a lot of people wrong."

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