New Orleans Saints linebacker Michael Mauti went into intimate detail with The Times-Picayune about his grueling battle with ulcerative colitis -- an inflammatory bowel disease that he said had him going to the bathroom in "excruciating pain" 20 to 25 times per day before he had the first of three surgeries in November.
"I've never been tested like this mentally," said Mauti. That's saying a lot, since Mauti endured three torn ACLs while in college at Penn State and was a veteran leader on the team during the Jerry Sandusky scandal.
Mauti talked to NOLA.com about the physical toll of those frequent bathroom trips and the inability to keep food in, as well as the mental strain of not wanting to have an accident on the field.
Mauti, 27, has dealt with the disease since his final year in college, but it finally reached a point where he and doctors felt it was necessary to have the surgeries. According to the story, Mauti will have an internal J-pouch that replaces his colon and rectum.
Mauti is a free agent, but he hopes to recover in time to play this year and has remained in touch with the Saints, calling them very supportive. Mauti's father Rich also played for the Saints in the 1970s and '80s.
Mauti, who spent his first two years with the Minnesota Vikings before becoming a special-teams captain with his hometown Saints, said his weight is up to 220 pounds after it dropped to a low of 190. He is expecting to resume full training around mid-May.
Mauti has kept his sense of humor during the process, though. When he opened up about his disease for the first time last year, he joked that it was a "ploy" to get a Charmin sponsorship. Charmin responded with a toilet paper delivery, which Mauti shared on social media.
"For me, it's like, well what could I do without this? What could I do if I wasn't dealing with this? What could I do if I was healthy and had a season under normal circumstances?" Mauti said in the detailed story, which included interviews with former Penn State coach Bill O'Brien and former NFL kicker Rolf Benirschke, who battled a similar disease. "That's what I'm really chasing after, and I'm hoping that's not a unicorn that I'm chasing, but I don't think it is. Otherwise I wouldn't be doing this."