Ask any football coach what it takes to be a starting quarterback in the NFL and they’ll tell you it’s the guys who know how to handle pressure and adversity that make the cut. Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback David Garrard is one such quarterback—both on and off the field.
As an individual living with Crohn’s disease, the star QB has made it a personal mission to promote awareness about the illness and raise money for the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America (CCFA). This season, he’s repeating a fundraising effort he started last year with CCFA called “In the Zone for Crohn’s.” For every touchdown Garrard makes, $10,000 will be donated to CCFA. Last year, Garrard raised $170,000 and hopes to exceed that goal in 2009.
We recently caught up with the civic-minded Garrard to get his thoughts on the current season, his workout regimen, and how he overcame a debilitating disease to maintain his position as a starting QB in the NFL.
Following Week 2 in the NFL, traditional powerhouse teams lost and underdogs rose to the top. Do you see a power shift in the NFL?
It really looks like it. Teams you expect to win aren’t, or they’re being taken to the limit by some of these teams [you wouldn’t imagine]. I wish we had done that a couple of times—it would have been pretty sweet! But it does feel like it has become more of an even playing field.
You started out 0-2 for the second straight year and lost your wide receiver, Troy Williamson, for the season—are you concerned about the next few weeks?
It’s tough. We started out the season with an all-around new team and we’re still trying to get everyone to gel together. Whoever is out there on the field playing needs to be able to step up and make the plays necessary [to win]—it’s a bottom-line business.
People place a lot of responsibility on you to succeed and already there’s talk of Jacksonville drafting a high profile QB in 2010. How do you deal with the pressure?
I try not to think about [the pressure] too much, you just try to do your job and hopefully it’s good enough. You know you’re not going to play this game forever, but you’re trying to do your best—that’s all you can do.
Philanthropy is a major part of your life. You have helped raise money for lung cancer and breast cancer research, as well as raise awareness for Crohn’s disease. Why are these causes important to you?
Most of them are close to me and they’ve affected me somehow: My father smoked cigarettes for a long time and passed away with bad health, my mother passed away with breast cancer and I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. These are things that I’m passionate about—[philanthropy is] something that I really want to do and it’s something that I really care about. I’ve been blessed with so much; I try to be a blessing back to people as much as I can.
You were diagnosed with Crohn’s disease in 2004, how were you able to recover so quickly?
I think that [the diagnosis] was timed up perfectly where I was able to have the surgery, rehab, and get back to 100-percent as far as my stomach and everything. Then training camp started and I just fought through it, even though my legs felt like Jello because I didn’t have the strength in them that I normally had. I knew that if I kept pushing through, things would eventually work out though. By the time the  season started, I was ready to roll.
Crohn’s causes a suppressed appetite and you had to regain 35 pounds following your surgery. put on and take off weight. What has it been like to maintain your body as a QB in the NFL?
Luckily, not having dealt with any signs and symptoms [of Crohn’s] for a while, I’ve been able to live my life like it should be. This past off-season I actually took off 20 pounds because I wanted to be a little lighter this year. Maintaining weight is just about eating right. I can put weight on as fast as the best of ’em; taking it off—that’s always hard.
What’s your typical post-game meal?
I usually do a good steak with some kind of veggies, but because I burn a lot of calories, I’ll mix in some fries. Usually, after the game, I’m not thinking about eating too healthy.
What’s your workout schedule like during the season?
We workout on Mondays, right after the game—it’s our regeneration day of stretching, using roller pads, getting in the ice tub and letting your legs regenerate. Thursday is my lift day and that’s where I go through a pretty significant workout at the stadium.
What exercise do you constantly perform and find essential for your training?
I like to get in a good abdominal workout . The core is the central part of your whole body and when the abs are soft and weak, you’ll get back problems, hamstring problems and you’re not as physically fit to move as well as you’d like to—your core is a big part of the NFL. I have done pilates and I have done yoga, both of them are very tough—P90x is also a great workout for your abs.
You’ve also made a name for yourself as a chef, cooking on the Rachel Ray Show and winning the Super Bowl Recipe Playoff. What’s the winning recipe?
My buffalo chicken dip. It is chicken, sour cream and layered cheese on top. You throw it in the oven and bake it and once it comes out, eat it with Frito chips for dipping. It’s awesome! It’s not the healthiest meal, but if you’re watching a football game and have a lot of friends over, it’s a good one to have.
Now for the lightning round of questions: What’s the last good movie you saw?
What’s your favorite television show?
What kind of car do you drive?
I have two—my everyday car is a Mercedes-Benz, but my favorite car is my ’69 Camaro convertible.
What’s the toughest stadium to play in?
It’s always been the Colts stadium. With that dome, it’s always so loud and it feels like everybody’s sitting right on top of you.
What’s your favorite stadium to play in, other than Jacksonville Municipal Stadium?
I really like Tampa. They have a really good field down there with the big pirate ship in the end zone. It’s cool because I went to Eastern Carolina University and we’re the Pirates, so I really envision something like that in our ECU stadium someday.