Miller: Myles Brennan ends football odyssey only after giving everything to LSU

BATON ROUGE, La. — The saddest truth of recruiting and football, and even life, is that things rarely move on some linear trajectory. What unfolds often doesn’t go to plan, or even Plan B or C.

The top-10 quarterback expected to be the face of a program’s offensive modernization gets pushed aside by the greatest quarterback in school history. He waits four years and gets his starting chance only to suffer a freak injury so rare they offer to name the surgery after him, then a year later breaks his arm getting his flip flop caught days before preseason camp. He plans to leave, gets convinced by the new coach to stay for his final chance. And he still doesn’t win the job.

Myles Brennan’s experience is one of the most unfortunate stories of how a college football career can go awry. He didn’t do anything wrong. He produced well when given a chance. Yet entering the sixth season of his LSU career, he never got to be the guy.

Now, his football career is over. Brennan announced Monday that he is walking away from football altogether. LSU’s quarterback competition has narrowed to Jayden Daniels and Garrett Nussmeier, sources said The Athleticand Brennan chose to end a journey that ranged from great new hope to fan favorite to sob story.

At the Manning Passing Academy in June, Brennan talked about not being afraid of the easy route, and it’s true. Nobody would have blamed Brennan for leaving in 2018 or 2019 or 2021. Or 2022. He waited patiently as everything went against him, and he always maintained that he loved LSU and wanted to fight it out. Even when Brennan went to the transfer portal this winter and new coach Brian Kelly convinced him to stay, LSU added another quarterback in Arizona State’s Daniels. Yet Brennan remained.

“I’m a fighter,” he said. “I like to compete. I want it to be hard. I want it to be a challenge. I know I have one year left, but my whole career has played out for this exact moment.”

But there comes a point when enough is enough. Brennan could have left for a chance to be the starting quarterback at a place like Southern Miss or South Alabama, but that wasn’t his dream. His dream was to play at LSU, in the state where his family is royalty, having launched the Brennan’s restaurant empire and founded the Krewe of Bacchus. He met his now fiancee at LSU and got engaged at midfield of Tiger Stadium, and people close to Brennan always said the relationship played a part in him always wanting to stay.

And maybe Brennan always knew this might be how it ended when he returned from the portal. Maybe he decided he’d rather take one last shot at LSU and accept the consequences rather than try to make a name for himself in Conference USA. Then once it was clear he wouldn’t be the starter, six preseason camps were enough. He could go live his life, go hunting and fishing and get married.

But there’s no downplaying the unfortunate breaks of Brennan’s career. To date him, he was recruited by former LSU coach Les Miles and ultimately decided to stay on with Ed Orgeron in 2017. LSU planned for the No. 152 players in the country to be the foundation of the program’s transition to a modern spread offense after Brennan shattered records in a run-pass option heavy spread scheme at St. Stanislaus High in Bay St. Louis, Miss. He even saw the field as a true freshman. But in summer 2018 — in the midst of a three-man QB competition — LSU signed an Ohio State transfer named Joe Burrow. You know the rest. Burrow won a Heisman, a national title and became one of the greatest quarterbacks in college football history as Brennan sat and learned. Brennan woke up in the morning of Jan. 14, 2020, after LSU won the national championship, and it sank in.

“This is what I’ve been waiting for,” he told his father, Owen. “My time is right here in front of me. It’s up to me now to take what’s in front of me and run with it.” LSU saw a gear shift in him as he put in more work than ever. He became a clear leader in the locker room, even standing up to speak in support of teammates during a protest of racial injustice in 2020. Once maligned for being too skinny, arriving at LSU weighing 178 pounds, he got up to 220 pounds. Everything was going to plan.

In his three 2020 starts, against SEC competition, he averaged 370 yards per game. LSU started 1-2, but the blame did not fall on Brennan and the offense. During the first half against Missouri, Brennan’s body contorted on a sack, and he tore his oblique in such a strange way down his hip that doctors had never seen it. Surgeons offered to name the surgery after him because he’d be the first to have it done. His season was over, but he would finish the Missouri game. He threw for 430 yards and four touchdowns with a torn abdomen.

Year 5. This had to be his time, right? He’d fought and showed he could produce in those three starts. Not so fast. Fellow quarterback Max Johnson impressed coaches during Brennan’s absence, and the second-year quarterback created a tight battle with Brennan for the job.

Instead, days before camp, Brennan was on a fishing trip with friends when his flip flop stuck on a dock, and he fell and broke his left arm. Another season gone to waste.

Many expected the job to be his when Kelly coaxed him to return. Brennan denied that he was given any assurances and said that the staff communicated well with him about bringing Daniels in months later, but one could not blame him if he felt perturbed. He risked his final year only to have another high-profile quarterback enter the mix?

It didn’t get any easier as Nussmeier impressed during spring ball and pushed into the competition. Suddenly it was a true three-man battle, and the vibe from LSU coaches was that Brennan did everything right and made the right decisions. He just wasn’t as mobile and didn’t have the “it factor” of the other two.

By last Thursday’s practice, the separation was clear. Even with Nussmeier out with a minor ankle injury — he’s back now — Daniels took all the first-team reps. Brennan worked exclusively with the two, often throwing to walk-on receivers. Kelly told reporters that if Nussmeier had scrimmaged, he would have also taken reps with the ones. So the QB who wasn’t there would have been with the ones but a healthy Brennan still wasn’t? It was clear, and sources confirmed, it was down to Nussmeier and Daniels.

When all that’s laid out, how can one blame Brennan for calling it a career? He isn’t pouting. He’s not a transfer portal era QB bailing when things get tough. If anything, he’s been the opposite for six years. He took a beating, injured most of his body, endured, and by the time he realized he wouldn’t be the starting quarterback, he asked himself: Why keep going through more of this?

He’s not leaving LSU in some troubled position. Regardless of who wins the job, LSU will have a good backup in either Daniels or Nussmeier. Plus, five-star true freshman Walker Howard has been making strides during camp and provides depth. LSU will be fine.

As LSU finished practice in the heavy rain Thursday, Brennan exited the locker room just as reporters were exiting a news conference with Kelly. Brennan kept his head down, but an older man saw him and said, “Good job out there today, Myles.” Brennan said thank you, but kept his head down. Maybe he knew his decision then.

After one of the strangest, saddest journeys in recent memory, Myles Brennan’s football journey is over, and nobody can blame him. He gave everything to LSU.

(Photo: Jay Biggerstaff/USA Today)

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