(From December 2005)
A vertical scar begins just below David Garrard's navel. He can see it when he lifts up his shirt, when he gets in and out of his Jaguars uniform, when he prepares for bed.
"It's not that bad," Garrard, Jacksonville's new starting quarterback, said Tuesday at Alltel Stadium. "I've seen people with scars all over their stomach. Mine is just about three inches."
Garrard's blemish is a reminder of the Crohn's disease he has fought for two years and of how he is approaching the biggest start of his pro career on Sunday, when the Jaguars (9-3) are host to the undefeated Indianapolis Colts (12-0).
"Even keel," said Garrard, 27, who will make his second consecutive start since Byron Leftwich broke his left ankle Nov. 27. "We're out here playing a game that can be taken away at any time. With me, that almost happened."
If the Colts' Peyton Manning is the best-known quarterback in the N.F.L., Garrard may be its least known, although he faced Manning in his only start as a rookie in 2002. (The Jaguars lost, 20-13.)
Garrard, who was born in East Orange, N.J., and grew up in Durham, N.C., is remembered primarily for being the East Carolina quarterback in a 64-61 double-overtime loss to Leftwich's Marshall team in the GMAC Bowl in 2001.
More than Garrard's ability to escape pressure and make plays with his feet, having Crohn's disease, a chronic inflammation of the intestines, has earned him respect, affection and trust in the Jaguars' locker room.
In January 2004, Garrard began to have severe stomachaches after meals. The pain would subside and reappear, including once when he and his wife, Mary, visited Jaguars tight end Kyle Brady and his wife, Kristi, in St. Augustine, Fla.
"In the off-season one weekend, we went out and had a real nice meal, went back to the place, and he was throwing up all night," Brady said of Garrard on Wednesday. "We were there for some moments that were kind of down and dirty. We saw all of that happening."
Garrard described it as "the most excruciating pain that I have ever felt."
"It knocks you on your knees," he said.
Garrard's 6-foot-1, 244-pound frame began shedding weight at the onset of Crohn's, one of several inflammatory bowel diseases that affect 1.4 million Americans, according to the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America.
"I had never heard of it until he got it," Leftwich said. "We'd ask him every day: 'What is it? How do you get it?' "
[In a telephone interview on Friday, Dr. James F. Marion, an assistant clinical professor of medicine at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in Manhattan, said: "We don't understand the essential nature of the disease, which is quite frustrating for the patients and makes it difficult for doctors as well. The symptoms can be subtle or extreme."
He said the inflammation caused by Crohn's could lead to swelling and ulceration of the intestines as the body tries to heal itself. Obstruction and a narrowing of the intestines can occur, as it did with Garrard.]
"Once it starts to scar up, food has a hard time passing through," Garrard said. "It's like a four-lane highway coming into a two-lane highway and bottlenecking. And that's where you get your pain."
"I just thought I had a stomach virus," he added. "It was three months before I asked anyone to check me out."(SAME HERE SAYS SCOTT)
Garrard bottomed out at 215 pounds, his weight as a high school freshman. When a colonoscopy and other tests determined that he had Crohn's, doctors placed him on various drugs, but the sharp pains returned.
He didn't participate in several spring minicamp practices last year, but he sometimes showed up. His teammates saw a gaunt man whose head suddenly looked too big for his body.
"What he went through went beyond football," said Leftwich, leaning on crutches in the locker room. "It was something that dealt with life."
Garrard knows about life, death and divorce. His parents split up when he was 7, and his mother, Shirley Ann, died of breast cancer when he was 14. Garrard then lived with an older brother but was close to his father, Wilmer, until his death two years ago.
Then in May 2004, doctors at the Baptist Medical Center in Jacksonville removed 12 inches of Garrard's intestines, entering just below his navel. The doctors prescribed yet another new drug, Remicade, to try to keep the disease in remission. Garrard began to put on weight.
"I was supposed to take six to eight weeks off, but I was back out in four or five," Garrard said.
He was able to make two starts during the 2004 season - the Jaguars split the games - and doctors monitored him as he prepared for this season.
Every eight weeks, he takes Remicade through an intravenous drip that takes three hours. In August, doctors performed another colonoscopy.
"I didn't have anything in there, any symptoms or any discoloration," Garrard said. "I was totally clean."
[Marion, the Mount Sinai professor, said: "There are other pro sports players who have Crohn's disease that do not necessarily come forward. People don't like to talk about their bowels or bleeding from the rectum. It's taboo to bring this up. But if somebody is able to get the disease under good control and get transitioned into a maintenance regimen, which it appears that David has, there is every reason to expect that they will be entirely themselves."]
It's too early to classify his style as a quarterback, but Garrard has been compared to Steve McNair and Daunte Culpepper, players who can run and throw.
Garrard preserved a victory over the Arizona Cardinals on Nov. 27 and won as a starter last Sunday against the Cleveland Browns. Coach Jack Del Rio said Garrard had stepped in with poise and "has an opportunity to play big time for us right now."
But the Jaguars know him best as the teammate who shared their locker room, disappeared, and shared their locker room again.
"I know how good he is," said Leftwich, standing near Garrard's locker.
Defensive end Paul Spicer looked in Garrard's direction.
"We see that man every day," he said. "We know what he can do. When he gets out there, watch what happens."
-Just thought it was interesting story of an athlete with Crohn's Disease - Scott