BAY ST. LOUIS, Miss. — Myles Brennan can be forgiven for wanting to make history. A large portion of his own is already gone.
Sure, Brennan can point out that he threw for the most yards in Mississippi prep history with 15,027. That’s 8.5 miles worth of completions. Or that he threw for 165 touchdowns. Or that all of that was done in only three seasons.
And he can definitely point out the things he needs to work on, with his first of three total interceptions in 2016 still proving to be an annoyance months later. He recites the play while engaged in casual conversation as if he’s actually watching the video instead.
“The first one my senior year still haunts me,” Brennan said. “We had a single receiver to the right and we flared the back out of the backfield. We pump-faked to the back to try to get the corner to bite. I threw a vertical to the receiver. The corner didn’t bite. I was going to check it down to the back and the linebacker floated out and swiped it and went.
“I won’t ever make that mistake again, that’s for sure.”
Though Brennan can recall all those things in acute detail, there remains one thing he will never know: what he looked like as a baby.
“I haven’t seen myself as a legit baby, I think, ever,” Brennan said. “Like as a toddler, yes. But not as a just-born kid. I haven’t seen anything of me being held.”
Of course, the inability to remember infancy puts the future LSU quarterback on par with the majority of humanity. But most people are fortunate enough to have some sort of photo documentation to fill in the gaps. Brennan does not. All that evidence was washed away, destroyed along with his boyhood home when Hurricane Katrina came ashore just a Hail Mary heave from the front yard.
“August 29, 2005,” said his father, Owen. “That’s when history starts for him. It starts at the storm.”
Son of the Gulf
By all means, Myles Brennan’s upbringing could have been one without many hurdles. His last name is connected to the two most valuable commodities in New Orleans: a good meal and a good time.
The family had a namesake restaurant founded by Myles’ great-grandfather. Brennans also run Commander’s Palace — the proving ground of star chefs Paul Prudhomme and Emeril Lagasse, among others. And there’s also the Old Absinthe House, one of the most iconic bars on Bourbon Street.
“It’s hard to go to New Orleans without buying food from a Brennan,” Owen said.
But shortly after Myles was born, Owen left the city behind.
“They wanted to raise us on the water,” Myles said.
“[My wife and I] were born and raised New Orleans through and through,” Owen said. “We used to visit my wife’s sister in Waveland, Miss., all the time. It’s just such a cool place to raise boys. Commuting never was an issue. It was a beautiful experience.”
One could not ask for a more idyllic setting, with the Brennan house only separated from the beach by a two-lane road leading into downtown Bay St. Louis.
But that pleasant location, where the next-door neighbor’s house had stood since the 1820s, sat directly in the crosshairs for the perfect storm. Katrina was finally the one.
“We waited ’til the last minute to leave because we had had so many close calls before,” Owen said. “There were no hotels anywhere to the west, so we went east.”
They went about as far east as one can go, staying with family in Jacksonville, Fla.
When Owen returned to Bay St. Louis, there was nothing to return to.
“We had no home,” he said. “It wasn’t even evident that it existed.”
Faced with bringing Myles and his two older brothers back to a place so devastated, Owen found an unconventional solution. After the Gulf of Mexico ruined their home, the Brennans would find their new home in the Gulf itself.
‘Swiss Family Robinson’
The Brennans faced a choice. For that alone, they remain grateful. The scenes that played out in the Superdome during the storm and the Houston Astrodome after the evacuation demonstrated how many people did not have that luxury.
“When we came home, we saw horrible devastation,” Owen said. “The National Guard had to escort us to our property. We decided, ‘We’re not going to bring the kids back here and subject them to this.’
“We were blessed to have other options. If we hadn’t, we would have been in the same situation as everyone else.”
Deciding that the best course of action was to turn adversity into adventure, Owen and Megan Brennan bought a boat. And for three years, that vessel anchored in Destin, Fla., was the Brennan family home.
It was no shrimp trawler, to be certain. Owen Brennan bought a 75-foot sport yacht, which provided enough space for semi-comfortable living.
“Five beds, three baths, a kitchen, living room,” Myles said. “And we were all yay big, so it wasn’t bad. My middle brother and I shared a room.”
Myles was 6 years old at the time, so it all seemed a bit wondrous to him.
“We were rarely ever in our rooms,” Myles said. “When you’re on a boat, you’re going to be out enjoying the water. The only time we were on the dock was during the week during school. On the weekend, we’d untie and be out fishing.”
The Brennan boys went to school like the rest of the kids their age, simply returning to an odder location than their classmates after the final bell rang.
Living on a boat was not the most trying part of the experience. Each week Owen drove to New Orleans — a four-hour trip — early Monday and returned late Thursday.
“We really didn’t see Dad except on weekends, which was hard on my mom,” Myles said. “She had to take care of the boat and make sure it was still floating and everything that comes with it. Not to mention three boys running around being crazy.”
But Owen is grateful his boys had the experience, particularly when considering the alternatives.
“It was a Swiss Family Robinson kind of lifestyle,” Owen said. “It’s one of the fondest memories I’ll ever have.”
Myles Brennan’s football start
While living on a boat in Destin, Myles Brennan discovered the activity that would come to define his life on land.
Even though they arrived in town midway through the season, the family friend who provided the dock for the Brennans also pulled some strings to get the boys on pee-wee football teams.
“I said, ‘Let’s make this as normal as possible for the boys. What are some other things we can do?’ ” Owen said. “Get us on a football team.”
Myles was originally a receiver because of his height, but gravitated to quarterback as the years progressed because that’s what his brother Bo played.
“I saw my brother practicing at quarterback and gave it a shot because I thought it was cool,” Myles said.
The attempt to be cool is paying off.
The Brennans moved back to a home in Bay St. Louis when Myles was in third grade. By his sophomore year at St. Stanislaus, he was the starting quarterback and had a season most would call a career. Brennan threw for 5,797 yards and 64 touchdowns.
Looking back, Brennan realizes how gaudy the numbers are.
“My sophomore year I was at 5,700 yards, which was insane, but I didn’t know any different,” he said. “A lot of teams throw to break records. We didn’t care about the records because we were actually being successful with it.”
Even though Brennan was off to an eye-opening start, interest in him was tepid at first. His initial scholarship offer came from UAB, which temporarily killed off its football program shortly thereafter.
Certainly, Brennan’s body frame was among the concerns. Despite coming from a food-filled family lineage, his belly has yet to take. Brennan’s lanky build gives the impression that a hard hit at midfield could send him flying a couple rows into the stands.
Despite appearances, Brennan does eat like crazy.
“I eat a lot. My metabolism is awful. It’s insane,” he said, also aware that any person over 30 years old would strongly disagree with that assessment. “Everyone is like, ‘I wish I could trade my body for yours.’ I can put the weight on for a day or two and the next day it’s gone. It’s kind of frustrating, but it’s kind of how my body’s built.”
But by the offseason following his sophomore year, schools were coming around to the fact that it would be easier to bulk Brennan up than find people who can throw the ball like him. And they would have even more trouble finding a quarterback who can process the game like him.
“He’s a special kid,” said his high school coach, Bill Conides. “He’s really worked at his craft. We put the whole protection scheme on him. That’s not a common thing, especially in a spread offense. A lot of coaches try to make it easier for their quarterback. I tried to make it harder.”
Myles Brennan’s football future
LSU has long been the apple of Brennan’s eye. He initially committed to the Tigers the April of his junior year. Though he reopened the search while waiting to see who Ed Orgeron would hire as offensive coordinator, the selection of Matt Canada quickly brought Brennan back into the fold.
But there is no telling what will happen once Brennan arrives on campus in early June. Unlike the rest of the quarterbacks on this year’s roster, he hasn’t had a spring training to acclimate to his new team or its playbook. He has seen the playbook, but right now? It’s just a bunch of squiggly lines.
“It’s like trying to study the Greek alphabet without a teacher,” he said.
Getting on the field this year will be a long shot with that handicap in place, but he’s determined to work hard enough to make it a feasible goal.
“I’m just going to have to start quick and put in more time and effort than those guys did just because I have a lot of catching up to do,” Brennan said. “But I feel comfortable with doing it and getting it done in a short period of time.”
No less an authority than Coach O himself has made it clear that Brennan will be given a fair shake in August camp. Though it’s still Danny Etling’s job to lose, Orgeron didn’t name a starter after the spring game because he wants to see Brennan.
“It honestly means a lot that they would take the time to realize that some players aren’t there yet and they aren’t going to make a decision,” Brennan said. “It gives me a shot to do what I do. If they like it, great. If not, then I can keep getting better.”
In the long term, that means duking it out with fellow freshman Lowell Narcisse. The two quarterbacks are as different as they come, with Narcisse being the dual-threat foil to Brennan’s traditional drop-back game. Having never been in a true quarterback battle at St. Stanislaus, Brennan is a tad apprehensive about the prospect of competing against someone he likes for a role only one can win.
“It’s going to be a real weird relationship. I’ve never had that [dynamic] here,” Brennan said. “But I feel like we both have the same mindset. We’re going to make each other better and work as hard as we can. The decision is up to the coaches.”
Memories lost and memories to gain
As native Mississippian William Faulkner noted, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”
That’s a reality for Brennan. His original home is nothing more than concrete slabs, protruding strands of rebar and overgrowth. And yet in order to get to school every day, he has to drive past that site, where the vaguest of memories stir.
“I remember some things from being younger, like going fishing and the house,” Brennan said. “But my biggest chunk of main memory? Moving around the South.”
Like the house itself, pieces of Brennan will always be rooted in Bay St. Louis. Others are just floating around.
“The Gulf Coast is really my hometown,” Brennan said. “It can be the New Orleans Gulf Coast, Florida, Mississippi.”
Brennan is of a unique generation from a unique place. The kids of Katrina will likely be among the last Americans to have memories wiped away by lost film. The rest of their lives have been thoroughly digitized on social media.
“It is a little strange. Most kids have pictures all over the house, in their room, recordings of Christmas and all that. We lost everything,” he said. “But it is what it is. There’s nothing we can do about it at this point. At the end of the day, we’re still together as a family, and that’s the most important thing.”
Brennan and teammates who are the same age — and future teammates in the next couple classes — know precious little about life before the storm. As his dad said, it is when history begins.
Myles thinks the collective adversity felt by all those Katrina afflicted at a young age sowed the seeds of something special that will blossom at Tiger Stadium.
“It brings this whole thing into perspective,” he said. “Everyone has their own story at this level. Many athletes are coming from a rough, rough life growing up whatever the circumstances are. But if anything, it will make the team stronger and form the brotherhood.”
Should Brennan win the quarterback job and lead LSU to a national title at some point over the course of his career, there would, of course, be an additional perk.
A team photo on the wall of LSU’s football facility, never to be removed.
Some of Myles Brennan’s past will never be recovered, but the future is just beginning.
LSU beat writer Alex Hickey is traveling the state and region visiting the Tigers’ 2017 signees for SEC Country’s “NextGen” series. Read his past NextGen stories here.