(WVUE) - Living the dream. It's a phrase used often by many but for Michael Mauti, it was his reality.
In 2015, the Mandeville product signed with the Saints, the team who grew up idolizing and the team his father, Rich, played for from, 1977-1983. His first year in black & gold was memorable capped off by an unforgettable blocked punt on national television against the Atlanta Falcons.
In 2016, Mauti picked up where he left off. Along with being a special teams demon, he started some games at linebacker through the first half of the season. Deep down, however, Mauti knew something was wrong. He was playing well but with each passing week, he felt constantly fatigued. He was also losing an alarming amount of weight.
"At the Greenbrier, I was 236, somewhere in that neighborhood and by week eight we were at San Francisco and I might have been 200 pounds," Mauti said. "A couple of days after that game I was at 190. That's when I had to take a look in the mirror and say 'you're sick you need to address this.' This started to become a serious health issue."
Ulcerative colitis was his official diagnosis. In layman's terms, it's an inflamed colon- a brutal condition that causes multiple daily and intense bowel movements. Mauti estimated as many as 25-30 per day.
"It was the most difficult thing I've ever had to deal with hands down, everyday, all day long," Mauti said. "I couldn't sit through meetings. I couldn't sit through a practice, couldn't make it through a game and you see your body weight week-to-week tanking you have to ask yourself or you doing good for your teammates? Are you dong your teammates a disservice by being out there, not healthy? And then putting yourself at risk for injury by not being at top strength or top physical condition. That's the decision I had to make."
In November 2016, the pain became too much to take. After speaking with Saints coaches, he elected to have his first of three surgeries that would eventually shut down his promising season.
"As soon as I stopped, my adrenaline and everything that was keeping me going, I just crashed, and I couldn't get back from it."
Since that time, Mauti has been on a mission to get back in shape. For the last six months, he's trained daily at D1 Sports in Covington and completely revamped his diet.
"I've gotten so detailed to the point of what I'm eating, when I'm eating it everyday, tracking calories, tracking diets and tracking sleep. I've really had to get very disciplined in what I'm doing. Everything is so structured now and I think that's been a blessing. Now I can finally I'm absorbing nutrients, eating all the calories and they're able to stay in. It's almost easier and I feel better. I really haven't felt this good in a long time."
"The way he comes back, it's ridiculous," his trainer Jason Demelo explained. "He's been like this for every surgery. I can't explain it. He just pops back up; he's got good genetics."
He's now back up to his 230-pound playing weight and completely regained his strength. All that's left is to regain a spot on an NFL roster. He's certain it will happen though the destination is unknown.
"There's no doubt in my mind that I'll be back playing and that's a fact at this point," Mauti said. "Where that will be? I'm not sure. If I had to go in training camp tomorrow, I'd be ready. We've been training hard over here, and this has been my number one focus the last six months."