About how Colt is welcome in their home anytime, Guylyn Ornelles said:
“We are a family. We love him, and he can do whatever he wants here. We just want Colt to be Colt.” (ESPN)
ESPN Note: “Today, on a couch next to the mattress, a father holds two kids on his lap. Generously proportioned over a 5-foot-7 frame, Gerald Welch looks like he’s more than three years removed from playing slotback at UH. Behind Welch, his mother, Guylyn Ornellas, leans against a wall plastered with poster-size family snapshots, a yellow plumeria blossom in her long, black hair. The 45-year-old matriarch and construction worker owns this home on Oahu’s north shore and shares it with Welch, his wife, their two kids — and Brennan, whenever he chooses.”
About how two families took him in when he transferred to UH from Oregon in 1973, JJ said:
“Every day, every event, everything, they embraced me. They became my ohana. Have been ever since.” (ESPN)
ESPN Note: “Ohana is the intangible that helps Jones put together a team every season. He depends on it to keep so many of his players happy, the way other coaches count on boosters. Football at Hawaii is a shoestring operation. In 2005, the team brought in just $5.4M in revenues, compared with $8.5M at WAC rival Boise State. Oversize travel expenses leave just $60,000 a year for recruiting at a school that’s 2,400 miles from the mainland. Boise State gets $143,000.
So Warriors recruiters can’t afford to chase players they don’t already know they can get. Counting on his fingers, Jones ticks off the profiles of typical targets: (1) Polynesian kids, (2) kids who have lived in Hawaii or have family here, (3) military kids with no permanent home, (4) kids recovering from injuries and (5) kids from broken homes. Then there’s the rare kid from the penal system.
About the players that he’s given second chaces to, JJ said:
“Some of my best players I’ve recruited out of jail.” (ESPN)
ESPN Note: “These are the players who benefit most from island love. That includes a favorite Brennan target, Davone Bess, who spent 15 months in a detention facility near Oakland after being caught unwittingly driving around some pals carrying stolen electronics. Jones shakes his head as he tells of watching video of Bess’ acrobatics in the facility’s 7-on-7 passing league.”
About how he recruited Colt, JJ said:
“My last trip to the mainland was for Colt Brennan.” (ESPN)
About what he went through at Saddleback, Colt said:
“It was hell. The Saddleback school paper wrote horrible stuff about me. There were media and people in the community trying to get me kicked off the team.” (ESPN)
ESPN Note: “Upon walking on at Hawaii, in June 2005, Brennan realized he had a chance to begin anew. As Brennan made his first walk from the UH locker room down the twisted path to the practice field, Bess jogged over and asked the new QB to throw him some balls. The two developed an easy rapport, practicing post patterns and timing routes while Honolulu’s morning haze burned off. That evening they sat on the porch of Bess’ home, watching the sun bleed orange across the sky, and traded stories. Slowly the two strangers — a private-school kid from the O.C. and a survivor of Oakland’s inner city — became as tight as family. It was ohana at work.”
About how he watched everything he said and did, Colt said”
“I was trying to win people over. I wanted to be really liked.” (ESPN)
ESPN Note: “But every time he met someone, Brennan wondered: What do they know about me? What do they think of me? He was terrified that another public misstep, no matter how slight, would end any chance at redemption.
Now, with rains pelting the athletic department windows, Brennan tried to recall the last time he’d felt happy. He surprised himself when his thoughts took him back to the day of that drubbing by USC, when he accepted a teammate’s offer to head to Kahuku for a barbecue at Welch’s. It was the first time the two met, and when Brennan left, Welch offered an open invitation to return.
So when the sun finally broke through in April 2006, after 43 straight days of rain, Brennan set out for an hour’s drive through the mountains that divide the island’s populated south from its rural north. Each coastal town along the Kamehameha Highway was smaller than the last. Just past Kahuku High School, Brennan turned into a quiet neighborhood and parked in Ornellas’ front yard. Stepping inside the house, he was immersed in a sea of 20 or so kids, none older than 4, all running, laughing and shouting. Only a few were technically family, but all called Ornellas tutu, Hawaiian for “Grandma.” Later the entourage moved to the beach, where Welch barbecued while the kids ran wild. Brennan just sat in the sand, watching the food cook as the hours passed by like minutes.
After that day, Brennan returned to Ornellas’ home too many times to count. Other families accepted him into their ohana — the Cazimeros, O’Neils and Funakis — but Kahuku became Brennan’s hideout, a place where no one judged him for his play or his past. One day, as Brennan climbed from his Jeep, Welch’s kids ran to hug him, crying, “Uncle Colt!” It was then that Brennan knew he was part of the family.”
About how his parents don’t get to stay long enough to see how moch his ohana means to him, Colt said:
“They never get to see this. I don’t think they know the security it gives me.” (ESPN)
Colt said that with his ohana behind im:
“football started to be easy for me.” (ESPN)
ESPN Note: “Suddenly NFL scouts took a serious interest; some were rumored to have him in the top 10 of the draft. Brennan was torn, weighing the prospects of an NFL fortune against leaving the corner of the world where he felt most at home. He postponed the decision as long as possible, filing for the draft at the deadline. A press conference was scheduled for Monday morning, Jan. 15, then postponed until Tuesday afternoon. But that one was canceled too. Nobody knew where Brennan had gone.
On the opposite end of the island, Brennan had borrowed a skateboard from Ornellas’ driveway and coasted to a market for some raw tuna. Everybody there knew him, but nobody asked what his plans were. Good thing, too, since he didn’t know. As the sun set, Brennan sat on the beach with Welch, thinking about what he wanted. He decided the world could wait another day for his decision. Finally, on Wednesday afternoon, Brennan stepped up to some microphones in an untucked button-down shirt. The room fell silent as he broke down, pounding the podium and wiping his tears with the meat of his palm.”
When announcing he was staying at UH for his senior year, Colt said:
“My heart lies here, in Hawaii. I like the person I’m becoming here.” (ESPN)
About how he’ll spend his NFL money, Colt said:
“The first thing I do when I sign my contract is buy me a house in Hawaii.” (ESPN)
ESPN Note: “And someday, in some corner of that house, there will probably be a ragged twin mattress, ready for the next wayward mainlander in need of ohana.”