Feature Alum Profile: Taylor Barton Print
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Taylor Barton and some admirers. Photo courtesy of Josh Golder.
Taylor Barton, ’03
, thought he had a solid plan for his future in the NFL: follow in the footsteps of his father, retired Detroit Lions quarterback Greg Barton. But in March 2002, when he was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, an inflammatory bowel disease that commonly affects people between the ages of 20–30, his life shifted from worrying about successfully completing a pass to fighting to stay alive. Now he hopes to spread the word about this debilitating disease.

True Guts: Struggle and Triumph Over Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis, a film about the two diseases, features Barton and other sufferers who have managed to lead fulfilling lives. Josh Golder, who missed two years of high school due to Crohn’s disease, decided to create True Guts to support others with these diseases. As many as one million Americans are affected, but the causes of the diseases are unknown.

“Taylor is a great guy, really upbeat, and people really have been inspired by his story,” says Golder.  

When Barton threw 56 TD passes, an Oregon-state record, his senior year at Beaverton High, it looked like his future was clear. After graduating from high school, Barton enrolled at Colorado. He only played in two games before transferring at the end of the 1999 season to City College of San Francisco, where he was named the team’s most valuable offensive player. He joined the Huskies in the fall of 2001 and despite being ranked the number-one junior-college player in 2000, he was relegated to back-up for quarterback Cody Pickett.

Shortly after transferring to the UW, Barton began experiencing blood in his bowel movements. Less than six months later, his 6’3” frame had shrunk to under 160 pounds. The doctors said it was ulcerative colitis. His immune system was attacking the lining of his colon, causing ulcers to form and the colon to cease functioning correctly. He had difficulty keeping water down and would have bloody diarrhea 10-15 times a day.

Barton kept the seriousness of his condition a secret from his parents, coaches and teammates and began to take prednisone, a steroid medication, to manage the symptoms. He regained weight and prepared himself for the football season. But by August 2002, the medication had lost its effectiveness. Determined to play football his senior year, Barton relied on the medication to mask the pain and he managed to make it through the entire season. Then he turned his attention to completing his degree. After graduating in the spring, he moved home to Beaverton to work at his father’s company, Next Step College Sports.

But the disease wouldn’t retreat. After collapsing from exhaustion in July 2003, Barton learned that his colon had to be removed. He was anemic from blood loss and weak from the inability to keep food down. Doctors were concerned he might not survive the operation. Despite the risk, Barton had no other options and underwent surgery in August. For the next several months, Barton was in-and-out of the hospital, fighting off infections caused by his weak immune system. He underwent more than 10 surgeries to fix complications from the initial operation and dropped to 140 pounds by February 2004, when he had more surgery to reattach his digestive system.  

Barton’s health has since improved.  At a healthy 210 pounds, he is now working out with weights and running. He continues to share his love for football by helping his father run the Barton Football Academy, a training camp designed to improve the skills of aspiring-college quarterbacks.  The camps take place at local universities, including UW, during the off-season. Last winter, Barton ran the Seattle Indoor Camp at UW and coached 200 players. He will run several camps during the summer as well. Meanwhile, Golder is taking his film on a tour of college campuses to spread the word about these diseases.

“As a dad, I am very proud of Taylor,” says Greg Barton. “He went through some very tough times. There were many times he was fighting for his life. But he never quit, he never gave up. Now he is giving back to kids and teaching them the values he believes in.”—Abby Walker