Story at a glance
- Canadian Laurent Duvernay-Tardif plays for the Kansas City Chiefs of the NFL.
- A medical school graduate, he opted out of the 2020 NFL season due to concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Now he is being recognized for his efforts on and off the field.
Laurent Duvernay-Tardif won’t be there to help his team defend their Super Bowl title this year. But to be fair, he did help them win it for the first time in 50 years.
A few months after the Kansas City Chiefs defeated the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl LIV, the offensive lineman was working in a long-term care facility in Canada. Those who wondered why he would return to the medical field likely don’t know how hard he worked to get it. The first active NFL player to graduate from medical school, he balanced a football career with his studies to honor his family’s legacy.
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“It’s too soon to say when sports might come back. Or what that might look like. What I can say is if we’re not playing in September, knowing all the implications of what sport means for a nation and the money behind this huge industry, there are going to be bigger issues than not playing football,” he told Sports Illustrated (SI) in April 2020.
He never did a residency, but when Canada began recruiting medical students to help out an overwhelmed health care system he took a refresher course and started working at a long-term care facility near his hometown on the South Shore, about an hour from Montreal.
“I understand the role that sports play in society. I get the need for games to serve as bonding exercises that rally people together in the worst times. But I had to wonder, in this particular year, did playing follow my larger convictions?” Duvernay-Tardif told SI in September, when he became one of the first players to exercise the option to sit out the season.
The NFL denied his request to add “M.D.” to his jersey in 2018, but the pandemic has brought renewed attention to his off-field contributions. Last year, Duvernay-Tardif was named a co-winner of the Lou Marsh Trophy as well as a SI Sportsperson of the Year.
I dedicate this award to all the healthcare workers who have been making huge sacrifices in order to protect and care for others.
— Laurent D. Tardif (@LaurentDTardif) December 6, 2020
Newest artifacts to arrive at The Hall: medical scrubs & lab coat of @LaurentDTardif.
The starting OG for the @Chiefs in #SuperBowl LIV, he stepped away from his football career this season to utilize his doctorate in medicine to help fight the COVID pandemic.#ChiefsKingdom pic.twitter.com/1wOIxiXBU1
— Pro Football Hall of Fame (@ProFootballHOF) November 14, 2020
While he’ll miss suiting up next weekend, Duvernay-Tardif said he plans to be back next season.
“I want the Chiefs to play all 16 games and make the playoffs; I want my team to repeat as Super Bowl champions, so that when I do return, we’re zoned in on a rare NFL three-peat,” he said in September.
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