Chiefs lineman Laurent Duvernay-Tardif will have a second career as a medical doctor

How many NFL teams can boast they have a 6-5, 322-pound offensive lineman who is about to pass his medical exams and get his full M.D.? The Chiefs do…and his name is Laurent Duvernay-Tardif.

Duvernay-Tardif was drafted by the Chiefs in the sixth round in 2014 out of McGill College in Montreal. Most Chiefs fans had not heard of McGill College, much less Duvernay-Tardif. He was a conversation-starter at best. “Did you hear that the Chiefs drafted a medical student in the sixth round? A French-Canadian medical student? And “Who was the last French-Canadian medical student to make the Pro Bowl?”

The answer to that last question may soon be Duvernay-Tardif, as the fourth-year pro has developed into one of the best guards in the AFC. Even before his rookie contract expired, he was signed to a long-term contract this past off-season.

“He’s come a long way,” Chiefs offensive coordinator Matt Nagy said. “He’s worked hard at it. His is one of those stories that you like to read. He might not have had the type of experience in college that you would expect to be able to start in the NFL. He wants to keep growing as a player, and he’ll do that.

“You can see the growth (in the entire offensive line) the last couple of years. You get in there with the communication, understanding what the defense is showing. Against New England (in the season-opener) there weren’t as many blitzes, but they’re a good group of guys who are well-coached. They take the game seriously and play hard.”

Duvernay-Tardif, who has been called a number of things since he arrived, is happy with any of them, including Doc.

“As we go along and I’m getting closer to my doctor degree, they’re pushing more and more toward Doc, which I don’t mind,” he said. “First it was Larry, then Canadian, then Frenchman, now it’s Doc. It’s easier. It’s one syllable.”

Nobody has come any farther than Duvernay-Tardif, who had to make not only the transition from college to the pros, but from Canadian football to NFL rules is like learning a whole new game.

“The yard between the ball and the defensive line is pretty huge,” Duvernay-Tardif said of all the rules changes. “The guys on the defensive line are not as athletic in the middle. You don’t have to defend the run as much in the CFL, because if you run for six yards on first down it’s not enough. It changes the whole attitude on the running game.

“The field is also wider, which changes everything. It’s all about the wide side of the field. When I got here as a guard, I had to adjust to the linemen being right on me. I have to move guys who weigh 300 pounds off their spots. It’s a challenge. That took me a while.

“In Canadian football, there are 12 men on the field, so the field is split in half. Here, with 11 guys, it changes everything. I have spent a lot of time in the film room, learning about positioning and protections, knowing exactly what we’re trying to accomplish here.”

Duvernay-Tardif said while the fans were not expecting anything from him during his rookie year, he would not allow himself to take that approach.

“I think you have to be, not anxious, but ambitious,” he said. “You have to put pressure on yourself to be ready. If someone rolls an ankle, you have to be ready to go in the game. That way you keep the stress level high enough to improve every day.

“If I told myself that my first year was just to learn, that would have been a terrible attitude. If you don’t push yourself hard, you wouldn’t get better.”

Duvernay-Tardif gives credit for his development to the coaching staff, specifically Andy Reid and offensive line coach Andy Heck.

“My first year was not pretty,” he said. “They believed in me and gave me the opportunity.”

“I had to get used to not having a yard between the ball and the defensive line. Playing four-down football was another adaptation for me. My second year I had a chance to start before getting benched. I think the coaches trusted me that I was going to improve. From there, building on what I’ve learned, I give a lot of credit to letting me grow as a player. They did not rush me to the field when I was not ready.

“There’s generally not a lot of time to grow up as a player. They expect you to play as soon as you get in the league. I think I was one of the fortunate players who they saw potential and didn’t rush me onto the field when I was not ready.”

A lot has changed since Duvernay-Tardif was drafted. He’s an integral part of one of the better offensive lines in the NFL. He also has completed all his coursework required to become a doctor. He will be taking his medical exams in May. Once he passes, he will become an M.D.

He would like taking the field with “Duvernay-Tardif M.D.” on the back of his jersey.

“It’s in the process of being looked at,” he said. “(Former Chiefs general manager) John Dorsey said it would not be a problem, but he’s not here anymore. I’m sure the NFL has rules about it. You can do whatever you want and pay a fine. I’m not there yet. I think it will be a pretty important moment for me.

“I think it would be a great story for the NFL. The NFL could benefit from it as well. As a business it would be great to show achievement at the highest level in two different endeavors. There are a lot of players who are struggling after their careers. But there are also a lot of guys who are going back to school to get degrees. We don’t talk about that as much, but I think we should. Let’s talk about the positive instead of the negative.”

During the season, Duvernay-Tardif is focused on helping the Chiefs reach the Super Bowl. But his long-term objective is to be Dr. Duvernay-Tardif.

“The goal right now is to step on the football field with the MD on the back of my jersey,” he said. “I want to show that it’s possible to combine both at the highest level. In all my efforts, whether that be with my foundation back in Montreal, with my schooling or with football, I always want to pursue excellence.

“I would not go through the entire process if it was not to practice medicine when I’m done. You can have a long NFL career and play for seven years, then follow that with a long medical career and practice medicine for 50 years.”

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Article by David Smale

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