HONOLULU (AP) -Moments after rallying Hawaii from 14 points down in the final four minutes to beat San Jose State in overtime, Colt Brennan stood before his mud-covered teammates in the middle of Spartans Stadium and delivered a passionate message.
``We kept saying 'believe,''' Brennan hollered. ``Believe the rest of the year and we will go undefeated. This is what it's all about. Every one of you guys, I love you.''
Brennan's bold prediction, captured by television cameras, was made in mid-October. Two months later, having led the Warriors to a perfect regular season, Brennan is a Heisman Trophy finalists.
``I was just saying what I felt,'' he said in an interview with the AP this week. ``It just came out and sure enough we believed the rest of the season, and here we are.''
Brennan was chosen as a finalist Wednesday, along with Florida quarterback Tim Tebow, Arkansas running back Darren McFadden and Missouri quarterback Chase Daniel.
No. 10 Hawaii (12-0) had the finest season in school history. The Warriors finished the regular season as the nation's only unbeaten team, won their first outright Western Athletic Conference championship and earned a Sugar Bowl bid to face No. 4 Georgia.
Brennan has made believers of his teammates and an entire state. They started believing when he announced he would return for this, his senior season, giving up a shot at millions of NFL dollars, risking injury and facing the potential of falling short of the staggering statistics he put up in 2006.
He returned, in part, to pay back to a school and a coach that gave him a second chance - and he has no regrets about the decision.
``Hawaii has inspired me to do a lot of great things,'' he said.
Warriors coach June Jones calls Brennan the ``best passer in college history.''
There's no question, Brennan is one the most prolific quarterbacks ever. He owns or shares 29 NCAA records, including the career touchdown mark of 131.
This season, Brennan has thrown for 4,174 yards and 38 touchdowns with 14 interceptions. He also leads the team with eight rushing TDs.
His numbers are down considerably from last season, when Brennan set an NCAA record with 58 touchdown passes, and led the nation in passing yards (5,549), passing efficiency (186) and completion percentage (72.6). All that and he only managed to finish sixth in the Heisman voting.
More important than the stats are the victories.
``I'll throw 20 touchdowns to go 12-0,'' Brennan said. ``That's what matters.''
He has led the Warriors to two fourth-quarter comebacks this season, first at San Jose State and then again against Washington in the season finale at home. Brennan was 42-for-50 for 442 yards and five TDs in the 35-28 victory over the Huskies. His game-winning scoring pass came with 44 seconds left.
``He's a straight gunslinger,'' receiver Ryan Grice-Mullen said. ``He's smart with the ball. His timing is right. He doesn't force things.''
Jones said it will be difficult for Brennan to win the Heisman because other contenders get more media coverage.
``He not only deserves to be there (in New York), but he deserves to win it,'' Jones said. ``Just look at what he's done.''
Brennan's statistics are hard to ignore, but playing while the nation sleeps, being a member of the WAC and having the easiest schedule in college football hasn't helped.
``The way I look at it, the Heisman Trophy should go to the man that captivated the nation,'' said Brennan, perhaps the only quarterback that can call audibles, and talk trash, in Samoan. ``Through his team, he played so good that everybody wanted to watch. Everybody was a fan.
``I would hope that because of the uniqueness of our culture, the uniqueness of our team and the success we've had, people would be very excited to watch us play.''
Brennan doesn't take for granted the joy he gets from being able to play.
He nearly lost that chance in 2004 while at the University of Colorado. A female student accused him of entering her dorm room. Brennan pleaded not guilty, but was jailed for seven days after being convicted of burglary and criminal trespass for not leaving the dorm promptly. A sexual assault charge was dismissed.
The experience made him humble and hungry.
``Three years ago I was saying, 'How could this happen to me, God. What did I ever do to deserve this?''' he said. ``Now I'm saying the same thing, but in a different context.''
Terry Brennan said his only son has appreciated the game since he was a toddler.
``I'd come home and Colt would be watching Monday Night Football sucking his thumb,'' he said.
Some of Brennan's best childhood memories are watching football on TV and taking a break at halftime to go in the front yard to play catch.
``My dad would say, 'This is for the Rose Bowl,' and he would throw the hardest pass,'' Brennan said. ``I would dive and act like I was catching the winning touchdown.''
Now, it's Brennan who's tossing the touchdowns. He's also leaving behind a legacy at Hawaii.
``When you can inspire people, you're part of something special,'' Brennan said. ``It's bigger than the game of football now. You're making a difference. Heisman Trophy or not, that's the greatest thing I'm going to walk away from, being part of this football team here in Hawaii.''

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