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Is Taylor Barton returning to the UW?
By Richard Linde, 4 March 2005

The following is a letter we received yesterday from Mr. Jay Waldron, who is handling Taylor Barton's affairs, his hospital bills -- that is the Taylor Barton Fund. Below that is an excerpt from an article I wrote, "His Longest Yard."

Dear Richard and Audrey,

On Wednesday, February 23rd Taylor had surgery to deal with the internal scar tissue he had from previous procedures. The operation was successful. He will have a two or three week recovery period, then he should be fine. The funds that you generously contributed helped Taylor pay for this operation. He will have substantial funds to address any future needs.


Sincerely,

Jay T. Waldron

Cc: Taylor Barton

At this time, Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times is checking out the story that Barton may be headed to Washington as a graduate assistant coach, just e-mailing me of that fact.
 

Excerpt:

Cody’s down. It’s bad. His right shoulder and arm hanging limp, Pickett leaves the playing field with the Huskies behind 14-7 late in the second quarter.

“Now playing quarterback for Washington, number 12, Taylor Barton,” Lou Gellerman announces, his words bellowing throughout the stadium, disquieting to its fans.

Obviously nervous and out of synch with his center Kyle Benn, Barton fumbles three center exchanges after taking over for Pickett. After the break, the coaching staff eases Barton into the game by letting him run two plays from the shotgun. Barton runs the ball twice, the agony of the last hit, paradoxically, easing his nerves.

For a moment he remembers the silent treatment at Colorado. That noiseless, volcanic voice -- both disquieting and deafening -- told the prescient Barton he needed to return to his roots, the Northwest, for his chance to play.

Taylor has a magnificent second half, throwing for 197 yards, completing 11 out of 20 passes, with no interceptions. With the scored tied at 24, he engineers a 49-yard-10-play drive, which takes the Huskies to the Trojan 15. Now it is John Anderson’s turn to excel and he boots a 32-yard field goal to win the game with just 3 seconds remaining.

And then the following week, the game against UCLA, Barton plays with courage and dedication, passing for 340 yards and one touchdown, going 23-44-1 on a hot, blistering day at the Rose Bowl -- which, ironically, sits on an alluvial fan called the Arroyo Seco (literally, "dry stream.") That stream of adrenaline that an athlete calls on in the midst of mayhem went dry for the rest of the Huskies that day.

Without a running game to keep the defense honest, Barton is as helpless as runner lugging weights in Pamplona. He is  bulled to the ground 21 times, gets up each time, but doesn't let the lingering pain derail his concentration. After the game, he’s taken to the hospital, suffering from a concussion, a sprained foot and dehydration.

Caught on television, with a certain reminiscence of the "Longest Yard," DE Dave Ball goes one-on-one with Barton, hammering him to the ground after a pick. A week later, Ball apologizes for the thoughtless incident and Taylor accepts his apology.

Barton played in 5 games during the 2001 season. He passed for 647 yards, completing 44 of 86 passes with 5 touchdowns and 2 picks.

On Picture Day, in August of 2002, I wished Taylor luck, saying I hoped that he would get to play against UCLA in November. Joking about the prior game with UCLA, he asked me if I’d seen the movie, “The longest yard.” I laughed along with nearby fans. He seemed in good spirits then and was not yet showing the effects of the disease that was ravaging his body. It was only when I returned home that I noticed the picture I had taken of him was remarkably different from my one of the year before (see photo above).

Barton said some coaches and trainers and a couple of teammates had an idea of what was going on, "but I don't think they knew the extent. The doctors told me I looked a lot better than I physically was." [quote from Bob Condotta].

A month later, Barton checked himself into a hospital in Portland, went on a liquid diet to quiet his colon and took higher doses of Prednisone, a medication used to treat ulcerative colitis.

During the 2002 season, Barton threw 8 passes, completed 7 for 42 yards, and played in 5 games. Amazingly, he was able to practice with the two's all season, and was Pickett's backup if the unforeseen should have occurred.

As luck would have it, a broken finger on his right hand kept him from playing against Purdue in the Sun Bowl, a game in which Rick Neuheisel had promised him significant playing time.

Nine months later -- whittled to a shell of himself as he carries a football-sized bag of nutrients -- fans and old friends of his barely recognize him on the street.

Could he have once played collegiate football, some wonder?

With USC on a roll these days and Washington in turmoil, Taylor Barton, may be the last quarterback to have led the Huskies to a victory over the Trojans for some time in the future.

Hopefully, his name won't just be an answer to a trivia question, especially if life gives him the break he deserves. He has too much to impart, so much to give to other people.

Taylor battled his way into the UW, captured our hearts, and is now fighting for total recovery, in this his longest yard. He's worth 85 scholarships in anyone’s heart and on anyone’s team, the most you can have.
 

Richard Linde (a.k.a., Malamute) can be reached at malamute@4malamute.com

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