Holding the Line: Laurent Duvernay-Tardif
Kansas City star lineman shifts from the line of scrimmage to the front line of a global pandemic
As the National Football League prepares to welcome some 7,500 vaccinated health care workers to Sunday’s star-studded Super Bowl, one doctor in particular will be watching anxiously from home.
Laurent Duvernay-Tardif is used to protecting people. For six years in the NFL, the 6-foot-5 right guard has made a living on the offensive line for the Kansas City Chiefs. In April of 2020, however, Duvernay-Tardif moved to a different line–the front line of a raging global pandemic.
On Feb. 2, 2020, the Mont-Saint-Hilaire-born Durvernay-Tardif hoisted the Vince Lombardi Trophy at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida. Soon after, however, the world set into pandemonium with the coronavirus reaching North America. Less than three months after that magical moment in Miami, Duvernay-Tardif traded in his shoulder pads for his medical scrubs and joined forces with thousands of health care workers already working to combat COVID-19.
Once reality set in, it became clear that the pandemic was going to extend into the upcoming NFL season, and far beyond it. Duvernay-Tardif had a decision to make, and soon later his mind was set. On July 24, the Super Bowl champion announced via Twitter that he would be opting out of the 2020 NFL season to continue helping in the fight against the virus.
The 29-year-old earned his Doctor of Medicine degree from McGill University in 2018, where he played university football between 2010-2013. Prior to his deployment into a long-term care home, he went through a medical crash course to retrieve the basics and was then assigned to his new workplace on Montreal’s South Shore.
In an article posted by Sports Illustrated, he recalls being nervous, “but a good nervous, like before a game,” the night prior to his first shift. That very night, the Chiefs had drafted Clyde Edwards-Hilaire which LDT, as he is often referred to, admittedly was unaware of. This wasn’t the first time his medical career overshadowed his football career, however. In 2014, Duvernay-Tardif missed out on a draft party at his house, because he was working at the hospital in an intensive care unit.
Coming into the 2020 season, football fans knew the Kansas City Chiefs had a legitimate chance at repeating as champions, including the oddsmakers who backed them as favourites. Winning one Super Bowl is a feat few can claim, nevermind a pair of rings in back-to-back seasons. Surely this was something that the Chiefs blocker considered, but at the end of the day, #76 followed his heart and opted to choose humanity over sports.
If nothing else, Duvernay-Tardif’s courage and goodwill has inspired a nation. Canadians are seldomly represented in the NFL, but it is comforting knowing that arguably the country’s biggest name on football’s grandest stage has retained an ethical nature that supports what Canadians are all about. He is the ultimate competitor on the field, but an even better man off of it. Times like this remind us that there are things in life that are bigger than the game of football–or sports in general for that matter–and Duvernay-Tardif’s social consciences exemplify that.
Duvernay-Tardif’s heroics have not gone unnoticed. Recently, he–alongside four others, including his quarterback Patrick Mahomes, as well as tennis activist Naomi Osaka–was named the Sports Illustrated 2020 Sportsperson of the Year. Back home in Canada, Duvernay-Tardif’s bravery and sacrifice earned him a share–along with Alphonso Davies–of the Lou Marsh Trophy, awarded to the country’s top athlete.
For the McGill graduate, the accolades are a reminder of the ultimate sacrifice he committed to, but none will ever compare to the lives he has helped save over the past 10 months or so.
Super Bowls are often defined by game-breaking moments. In 2008 it was David Tyree for the New York Giants; in 2009, Santonio Holmes for the Steelers; and in 2014 it was Malcolm Butler for the New England Patriots. But no matter what happens on Sunday night between the Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, perhaps the biggest play of this year was made off of the field.
Well done, Dr., well done. And now if you allow me, I will go ahead and say it–Go Chiefs!
Disclaimer: Dr. Duvernay-Tardif was contacted for an interview, but he is not taking any media requests at this time.