Laurent Duvernay-Tardif is the NFL’s Bruce Wayne. Only instead of shedding a fancy suit for a mask and cape, he swaps out his helmet and shoulder pads for a lab coat and stethoscope. An offensive lineman by trade, the Kansas City Chiefs guard happens to be the only active NFL player who also works as a medical doctor. A true superhero who would put Batman to shame, the former sixth-round pick has developed into a highly effective player on the field.
However, the recent Super Bowl champion has also made an indelible mark off the field as he wages war against COVID-19. For Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, the balancing act of burying defensive linemen and battling the coronavirus pandemic is simply a way of life.
Laurent Duvernay-Tardif’s journey from small-school draft pick to $42 million Chiefs star
A Canadian native, Laurent Duvernay-Tardif may be the NFL’s most interesting player. He played his college ball at McGill University. If you’re wondering where that is, you’re probably not the first. The Montreal-based university had only produced two NFL players before Duvernay-Tardif became a sixth-round draft pick in 2014.
The Chiefs selected the talented offensive lineman with the 200th overall pick. Considering his small-school background, the 6-foot-5, 321-pounder faced an uphill battle to just make Kansas City’s roster. Yet, the incredibly intelligent and well-built guard did more than that.
Making the jump from Canadian college competition to the NFL represented a huge hurdle. Duvernay-Tardif didn’t play a single game as a rookie. But by his second season, he earned the starting right guard job. Since then, he’s started 57 games and developed into one of the best at his position. In 2017, the Chiefs rewarded the former late-round pick with a massive five-year, $42.36 million contract that included a rock-solid $10 million signing bonus.
Becoming the NFL’s only medical doctor
While many athletes leave school early to pursue their pro dreams, Laurent Duvernay-Tardif did quite the opposite. He took his education so seriously that he not only graduated from college but also received a medical doctorate degree. To say he had to achieve a work-life balance would be a massive understatement. As the NFL’s first active player to graduate from medical school, he spent eight years pouring over both textbooks and playbooks in his dual pursuits.
If you’re wondering how the Chiefs felt about their right guard’s pursuit of a medical doctorate, the answer may surprise you. In a league where Bill Belichick treats every player as a commodity, that wasn’t the case with Andy Reid. According to CNN’s Jill Martin, the Chiefs head coach stood behind his standout offensive lineman 100 percent of the way.
“I was confident in my ability to play in the NFL for sure,” Duvernay-Tardif said. “You look at the stats, and how long is an average career and all that stuff, with studying medicine I didn’t know what was going to happen, but everything turned out great. I think Coach Reid is a big part of that, too. He understood what I was trying to do with my study. He gave me the chance to balance both. If it was not for him I would have (just) got my MD and I would not be here this week for sure.”
Martin wrote that Duvernay-Tardif studied up to 14 hours a day in preparation for his final exams. After eight long years, he earned his medical doctorate from the same university that Reid’s mother graduated from. And so, No. 76 officially became Dr. Laurent Duvernay-Tardif.
Duvernay-Tardif won a Super Bowl ring and is now battling COVID-19
We’re only in April, but 2020 has been one wild year. Perhaps no one appreciates this more than Duvernay-Tardif. Just a few months ago, he paved the way for Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs to capture their first Super Bowl title in 50 years. Celebrating the monumental victory turned out to be a short-lived experience. Once the coronavirus pandemic became an international dilemma, it was time for the real-life superhero to step away from the field and into the hospital.
In a compelling piece on Sports Illustrated, the massive medical doctor opened up about his experience battling COVID-19 while working at a long-term care facility near his hometown.
My first day back in the hospital was April 24. I felt nervous the night before, but a good nervous, like before a game, and I packed everything neatly: scrubs, white coat, extra pens, even a second pair of shoes that I could leave in my locker, knowing they were clean. I wasn’t aware the Chiefs had drafted a running back that night in the first round, even though I will block for my future teammate, Clyde Edwards-Helaire, from LSU.
Battling a deadly virus may not require the same physical strength as blocking Aaron Donald. And in the ever-changing medical community, you sometimes have to call an audible and ditch the playbook. With his compassion for helping others during this unprecedented period of history, Dr. Laurent Duvernay-Tardif is a true superhero that even Bruce Wayne would be proud of.