This summer, U SPORTS tells the stories of former Canadian university student-athletes who continue to find success both in the sports world and in their professional careers.
Most professional athletes have a general idea of what’s wrong when they are injured in play. Laurent Duvernay-Tardif can diagnose the injury as a professional.
Most university students idolize professional athletes and follow their favourite teams every move. Duvernay-Tardif followed his team down the tunnel, onto the field and into the play.
Duvernay-Tardif, one of the most impressive and inspiring student athletes is not only an NFL offensive lineman, but also a graduate of one of Canada’s most prestigious medical schools - McGill University.
Duvernay-Tardif, a native of Quebec, has slowly grown to be one of the biggest household names for Canadian football and student-athletes across North America.
Though there have been athletes in the past with ties to the medical field while playing pro sports, like Dr. Randy Gregg, who studied medicine while playing hockey for the University of Alberta Golden Bears, and then later after retiring from the NHL began practicing medicine, Duvernay-Tardif is the first active NFL athlete to earn a medical degree while playing in the league as well. He would spend his NFL off-seasons working towards his degree in medicine back in Montreal. With the NFL consuming the months from August to January, he was able to work on his schooling during the winter and spring.
"I've given him time every offseason to do work - the work that he wants to do for his post-football career so he takes full advantage of that,” says Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid – Duvernay-Tardif’s bench boss in the NFL – whose mother was also a graduate of McGill’s medical school, so the time commitment was far from a foreign concept. “I know every time that he gets a block of time he's putting it back into what he is now, that doctor part of it. A great university, McGill is a great place."
Prior to his NFL career, Duvernay-Tardif played for the McGill Redmen football team from 2010-2013. During his Canadian university career, he was recognized with the J.P. Metras Trophy in 2013 as the Most Outstanding Lineman in U SPORTS and was named an All-Canadian two seasons in a row. During this time, the Redmen players and staff were averaging one practice a day, while Duvernay-Tardif was balancing medical school with football and was practicing once a week. An impressive feat for anyone, but even more impressive for Duvernay-Tardif, who during his time with the Redmen, was regarded as the best Canadian university football player.
During his time as a student-athlete at McGill, CFL coaches and staff began to salivate over the chance of drafting this massive Francophone prospect, but the tantalization shortly ended, once the Canadian football world saw that he was simply too good to be playing in the CFL in the coming years. Because of his size and speed, the offensive guard was destined for the big leagues.
Though he didn’t garner the interest of every NFL team, there were still nine clubs in attendance at his Pro Day in Montreal prior to the draft in 2014. Drafted in the sixth round, 200th overall in the 2014 NFL Draft to the Chiefs, Duvernay-Tardif became just the 11th Canadian university product to be selected.
Since signing a contract with Kansas City in 2014, Duvernay-Tardif has started in 38 out of 41 games in his first four seasons. In February 2017, he signed a five-year, $41.25 million contract extension with the Chiefs.
“I am proud of him," says Coach Reid, clearly proud of his Canadian O-Lineman. “He's a sharp kid, I think we know that. A lot of work went into that. It's not an easy thing to do, I think we also know that. I think the way he handles himself is first class."
All incredible feats for someone who wasn’t playing football at the beginning of university.
Dr. Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, a role model for all Canadians has devoted every second of his life pursuing his two passions. Though he is currently devoted to being a professional football player south of the border, his intentions have never varied, with plans to begin practicing medicine once his successful football career has run its course.
For now, Duvernay-Tardif will have to settle for locker room diagnosis and protecting the ball.
Watch HBO's Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel on Tuesday, July 24 at 10 p.m. ET for a behind the scenes look at Laurent Duvernay-Tardif: "The Only Doctor Playing in the NFL."