Laurent Duvernay–Tardif: Montrealer, NFL Player and Doctor

There’s a reason the Kansas City Star proclaimed Laurent Duvernay–Tardif “the NFL’s most interesting man”: It’s because he’s done his homework. The only active football player in the league to hold a medical degree, the Kansas City Chiefs guard is also just the second Quebecer in history to hit the gridiron in the Super Bowl as part of a team’s regular lineup. In a few days, the Doc, as he’s been dubbed by his teammates, will play the biggest game of his career versus the San Francisco 49ers. Under the helmet and shoulder pads of this strapping lineman, there’s a determination that’s as solid as the Vince Lombardi Trophy – plus some big ideas that surpass his 6'5" frame.

January 31, 2020
Laurent Duvernay-Tardif's mouth guard is visible as he cheers
   Photo: Kansas City Chiefs

enRoute When you set foot on the field at Hard Rock Stadium on February 2, with hundreds of millions of people watching, what will you be thinking about?

Laurent Duvernay–Tardif I’ll be devoting all my energy to simplifying the situation and making the Super Bowl feel like a regular game. I’ll have to block the opposition just as I did during the 17 weeks of the season, so at that moment, I’ll be focused only on what I can control – concentrating on what I have to do on the field and forgetting about the media circus surrounding it all. The Super Bowl is so huge that the event transcends football, and even sport in general, so you have to be able to set aside the magnitude of it. The second I was drafted by the Chiefs in 2014, my motivation was to get to the Super Bowl. Six years later, I’m at the gates of the Hard Rock Stadium. Now all we have to do is win.

ER With just a few days to go before the final game, what’s the Chiefs’ mindset?

LDT Over the last few weeks we’ve developed a team cohesiveness that translates into a sort of intensity, a desire to win while keeping our composure, which helps us deal with adversity. The way we’ve been able to keep our cool in the last two games and start rolling on offense, getting back on track by scoring touchdown after touchdown, as if nothing could stop us, has been a really satisfying feeling. And it strengthens the team bonds – everybody’s on the same page. We’re 53 players absorbed in the task at hand, focused on studying our opponents, but we take the opportunity to have some fun and bring a personal touch to our games. Coach (Andy) Reid relies a lot on each player’s individuality, that personal aspect that makes us perform better collectively, because we’re more relaxed on the field, more anticipatory, which helps us recognize situations and communicate more effectively.

Laurent Duvernay-Tardif in his doctor's coat examining a knee
   Photo: Dominique Lafond

“I’m all about compartmentalizing, it’s what I thrive on. When you do something, you have to be 100 percent in the moment, create a bubble around the goal you’re trying to achieve and then block out the rest.”

ER How do you channel your energy between football and medicine?

LDT “Channelling” is actually a word I use a lot. When I was in CEGEP and university, I played football not to make the NFL, but to channel my excess energy. I’m a hyperactive person, with lots of projects on my mind. I’ve always believed that having several different areas of interest and cultivating them allowed me to have a better life balance and also perform better in each of them. For instance, when I started my studies at McGill, I gave up football. I was daunted by medicine and the workload. But before long I missed the game – it was like I needed it – and I started getting poorer grades. I asked the coach to take me back, and despite a busier schedule, I was able to perform better, dedicating myself 100 percent to sport and, when it was time, study. I made a promise to myself to stay invested in both right up to the highest level. When I entered the NFL, I was sure I was going to complete my medical degree. I received my Doctor of Medicine in 2018, in eight years instead of four, but that’s probably my biggest accomplishment to date.

ER Between football, medicine and your other pursuits, do you feel you have to compartmentalize your life in order to achieve everything? And do you focus on short– or long–term goals?

LDT I’m all about compartmentalizing, it’s what I thrive on. When you do something, you have to be 100 percent in the moment, create a bubble around the goal you’re trying to achieve and then block out the rest. I never dreamed of being in the NFL or even winning the Super Bowl. In CEGEP, my goal in playing football was to channel my energy level. At McGill, once I’d joined the team, my goal was to become the best player I could be. When scouts spotted me during my fourth year of medical school, my goal then became to get drafted, and after that it was to get a contract, and so on. When I set measurable goals for myself, it means that I can’t get up one day and just slack off, because the goal is right there in front of me, whereas setting goals that are very long–term can be somewhat demotivating.

Laurent Duvernay-Tardif plays hockey with a group of youth
   Photo: JP Beland

ER Since 2017, you’ve been involved with young people through your foundation. What’s the mission of the LDT Foundation?

LDT The NFL is an incredible forum for me to promote what I believe in. Having a proper balance, different passions and healthy lifestyle habits are things that are extremely close to my heart – they’ve served me well all my life and are the basis of the foundation that my girlfriend Florence and I created. We thought for a long time about what form our involvement would take, but we didn’t want it to be performance–oriented. The mission of the foundation, to promote a balance between sports, the arts and studies, comes from my deepest values. My parents never put any pressure on me to perform at school. They always told me to find what I wanted to do and encouraged me to do it to the best of my ability. That’s the foundation in a nutshell. Also, the reason LDT is involved with Grade 6 students is that statistically, there’s a decrease in the number of hours of extracurricular activities and the level of physical activity once kids hit secondary school. We wanted to give young people the tools they need and make them want to stay involved in what excites them outside of school.

The Questionnaire

  • Carry–on essential Noise–cancelling headphones.

  • Dream seatmate Someone pleasant with whom I can have an entertaining conversation, but who nonetheless gets the message when I decide to dip into my book.

  • First travel memory In 2000, with my parents and my two sisters, we embarked on a long journey on a very small sailboat. We did our schoolwork on the boat while making our way along the East Coast down to the Bahamas and the Caribbean. It gave me the opportunity to learn the basics of sailing and navigation. It shaped me as a human being.

  • Travel has the power to… Create bonds and bring people together.