WESTLAKE, Ohio -- Brian Brennan spent eight of his nine National Football League seasons with the Cleveland Browns and once his career was done, he came back to Northeast Ohio and currently works for KeyBank Corporation.
Brennan has also served as the director of football operations at Gilmour Academy and held 24 consecutive golf outings for the Boys Hope Girls Hope of Northeast Ohio for underprivileged youths in Cleveland.
For his efforts in the community, Brennan was honored with the 2012 Dino Lucarelli Lifetime Achievement Award from the Northeastern Ohio Chapter of the National Football Foundation at their 24th annual Scholar-Athlete Awards Banquet at LaCentre Conference and Banquet Facility in Westlake Tuesday night.
“I’d like to thank the National Football Foundation for having me as this year’s recipient,” Brennan said. “When I think of Dino and look at the list of former recipients, I recognize how special this award is for me. If you know Dino, it’s easy to understand why the award carries his name. He always cared and still cares deeply for Cleveland, for his friends and for so many worthy causes in Northeast Ohio. He’s an unbelievable person, a person I learned a lot from as a younger player for the Cleveland Browns back in 1984.”
Brennan played with the Browns from 1984-1991 and caught 315 passes for 4,148 yards and 19 touchdowns in the orange and brown. He ranks fourth all-time in Browns history in receptions and set career highs in 1986 with 55 catches for 838 yards and six touchdowns. He equaled the six touchdowns again in 1987.
Most of Brennan’s receptions started with a pass from quarterback Bernie Kosar. Kosar was the Dino Lucarelli Lifetime Achievement Award winner in 2011.
“I see Bernie Kosar’s name on this list and what a great quarterback he was,” Brennan said. “He was the best quarterback I ever had a chance to play with, most intelligent quarterback. I played with Doug Flutie and a number of other quarterbacks and people asked me, ‘What’s the difference between Doug Flutie and Bernie Kosar?’ I say, ‘I could see Bernie throw the ball.’”
Former offensive lineman Doug Dieken received the Lucarelli Award in 1999 and is one of six Browns players/coaches to be honored by the Foundation. Dieken and Brennan were frequent golf partners, an experience that cost one of them on road trips after a round of golf with an Elyria club pro.
“I was on the 18th tee and I was down $20 to Dieken,” Brennan recalled. “He said, ‘If you win this hole, we’ll call it even. If you lose the hole, you’ll have to carry my bags on every away game.’ Doug Dieken brought his bowling bowl to New Orleans; he brought his golf clubs to Miami and he doesn’t even ski, but he brought his skis to Denver.”
After telling quick stories about his former coach, Sam Rutigliano, Brennan thanked his family, including his parents who came up from Vero Beach, Fla., for the banquet.
“I’m fortunate enough to have two great examples in my life on what and how to live, my mom and dad,” Brennan said. “I lived in a great family environment and I live by quotes from my father, such as, ‘There’s no substitute for family life.’ ‘Discipline is another form of attention.’ ‘The mother is the heart of the home.’ I think those are very special. Lastly, for 27 years, Bethany Brennan, we’ve been together and it’s in large part because you’ve given me the opportunity to do the outreach toward Cleveland that I’m able to stand up here tonight.”
Brennan was presented for the award by former Brown Robert E. Jackson.
“Brian always fought the battle about being small in stature,” Jackson said. “What he didn’t have in size, he made up for in competitiveness, knowledge and desire to always win. He was always very tough, never let anybody know if he was injured.”
COACHES OF THE YEAR
Prior to Brennan being honored, the Foundation honored its four Paul Brown High School Coach of the Year Award winners, P.J. Fecko (Youngstown Cardinal Mooney), Joe Harbour (Creston/Norwayne), Tiger LaVerde (Kirtland) and Chuck Kyle (Cleveland St. Ignatius).
Fecko led Cardinal Mooney to the 2011 Division III state championship, his fourth OHSAA title since taking over the program in 2000, while Harbour guided the Bobcats to their first ever playoff appearances in 2010 and 2011. Harbour’s charges defeated Kenton 48-42 to the Division IV state title game last fall.
“I am humbled to stand before you to represent such a great program that has been built by great people,” Fecko said. “There are a lot of people that have supported me over the years and there are some staff members and Mooney people who have travelled up. I’d like to thank (my wife) for her support and everybody that has put together such a memorable season.”
LaVerde has led Kirtland to six conference championships in six years, five playoff appearances, three regional finals and a perfect 15-0 record en route to the Division V state championship in December.
“I want to thank the Foundation for this awesome award and I feel humbled to be up here with Coach Kyle and Coach Fecko,” LaVerde said. “Listening to what he said about all these young people, it is a privilege to be here and this is a fine group of young men. Every, single one of them, with high honors and high GPAs, it’s awesome what you guys have accomplished. It’s a game, make sure you have fun and enjoy the hard work and dedication that goes into it.”
Kyle, St. Ignatius’ head coach since 1983, has led the Wildcats to 11 state titles, the most of any program since the playoff format began in Ohio. He is 290-66-1 overall at St. Ignatius.
“I want to thank these young men in front of me,” Kyle said. “Certainly, they deserve a lot of congratulations, but I want to thank them because when they walk down the halls of their schools, they are the greatest example to the young people. I don’t think they realize how much young people look up to you. You are showing them the tremendous example that human beings only limit themselves. You can be a great athlete; you can be a great student; you can be a great human being and you are wonderful examples. We need more of you, so thank you.”
Former University of Dayton head coach Mike Kelly was honored as the 2012 Lee Tressel Ohio College Coach of the Year award winner. Kelly, a 2011 inductee into the National Football Foundation’s College Football Hall of Fame, went 246-54-1 in 27 years as the Flyers’ head coach.
Kelly led Dayton to four national championship game appearances and the 1989 national title. His teams produced 48 of Dayton’s 50 Academic All-Americans and 84 first-team All-Americans.
“This is a very special evening for the University of Dayton,” Kelly said. “The Lee Tressel Coach of the Year is very meaningful. I had the opportunity to coach against Coach Tressel in his last ball game and that was a very memorable game. We did win, but I still have nightmares of trying to stop that run-and-shoot. It was a great offense and a very legendary coach.”