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Colt Brennan to be honored at UH home game — and forever through a legacy fund

Colt Brennan playing for the University of Hawaiʻi
Courtesy University of Hawaiʻi Athletics
Colt Brennan playing for the University of Hawaiʻi

This interview originally aired on The Conversation on Oct. 19, 2021.

Colt Brennan’s legacy will be honored at the University of Hawaiʻi’s home game on Saturday — and for much longer through the Colt Brennan Legacy Fund created by his family.

The former Rainbow Warrior was a record-setting quarterback for the school, leading them to a 12-1 record and a Sugar Bowl berth in 2007. But he struggled to find the same level of success as a professional football player in the years after.

Colt Brennan with sisters, Chanel (right) and Carrera
Carrera Shea
Colt Brennan with sisters, Chanel (right) and Carrera

In 2010, he was a passenger in a car crash on Hawaiʻi Island that left him with a traumatic brain injury. The next decade saw him giving back to the community through youth football camps and coaching — and wrapped up in a series of legal issues.

On May 10, 2021, he was found unconscious in a California hotel room after ingesting fentanyl. He died the following day at age 37.

But Brennan’s family is hoping to find some triumph amid the tragedy. Earlier this year, they started the Colt Brennan Legacy Fund to support local youth sports and mental health organizations.

The Conversation spoke to Brennan’s sister, Carrera Shea, about her brother’s experience and honoring his memory.

She said she hopes the fund will help bring more awareness to mental illness and addiction, and support organizations that provide resources.

Colt Brennan with then-Washington Football Team coach Jim Zorn
Courtesy DB King/Flickr
Colt Brennan with then-Washington Football Team coach Jim Zorn

"Shortly after Colt passed away, our family was just receiving a lot of support, and from the people of Hawaiʻi mainly. And we were just shocked that he was remembered and revered still, just because there has been some time that passed from when he was actually playing football," Shea said. "We just thought it was a great opportunity to create a legacy for Colt to try and do something good out of this tragedy."

Shea said her family was originally not planning to attend the UH game this weekend, but after Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi modified attendance restrictions, they will be there to celebrate Brennan’s memory.

She also said the public will be invited to a paddle-out memorial for her brother at a time in the future when it’s safer for crowds to gather.

"We also want to take the opportunity to thank everyone in Hawaiʻi. He would be really appreciative and I think he'd be shocked of how much love there is still there for him — I think he'll be proud of that," Shea said.

For more information on the Colt Brennan Legacy Fund, click here.

This interview aired on The Conversation on Oct. 19, 2021.

Russell Subiono is the executive producer of The Conversation and host of HPR's This Is Our Hawaiʻi podcast. Born in Honolulu and raised on Hawaiʻi Island, he’s spent the last decade working in local film, television and radio. Contact him at talkback@hawaiipublicradio.org.
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