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In conversation with the Kansas City Chiefs’ Laurent Duvernay-Tardif

Football/Know Your Athlete/Sports by

Balancing a full course load and extracurricular activities is demanding for anybody, but McGill medical student Laurent Duvernay-Tardif is more than up for the challenge—especially given his “extracurricular activity” entails a full-time NFL job.

Though Duvernay-Tardif’s short-term goal is to win Kansas City’s game against the Indianapolis Colts next weekend, his long-term goal has always been medical school. He walked onto his CEGEP football team and played while enrolled in the pre-med program. Duvernay-Tardif thought he would give up football after CEGEP when he came to McGill as a direct entry student; however, his love of the game proved too strong.

“Everyone was telling me I would have to make choices, that I couldn’t do both [medical school and football at McGill] at the same time,” Duvernay-Tardif said. “But, there was a big part of me that was missing it. I called the [McGill] coach [Sonny Wolfe] and explained to him the situation [….] He understood and I started practicing with the team about four weeks into the season.”

For most athletes, a sports scholarship is their window into an education—but for Duvernay-Tardif, it was the opposite. For the first three years of his McGill career, Duvernay-Tardif primarily played football as a reprieve from medical school. Even so, scouts soon started to take notice of his apparent talent and competitive spirit. 

“People were telling me I had a lot of potential, but maybe I didn’t realize it at the time,” Duvernay-Tardif explained.

An emphasis on gathering advice and support from his close network has informed much of Duvernay-Tardif’s football career, the beginnings of which were a family affair. He speaks fondly of his parents, who took him on a yearlong sailboat trip when he was still in high school. When CFL and NFL teams began expressing interest in Duvernay-Tardif, he hired his best friend from CEGEP–who was in law school at the time—to be his agent because it was his friend’s dream to represent pro-athletes. Mostly, he is incredibly grateful for the flexibility McGill has afforded him in allowing him to pursue his medical school and professional football dreams concurrently.

“We [The Dean of Medicine, Dr. David Eidelman, the Associate Dean of Medicine, Dr. Robert Primavesi, and I] planned that I was going to be able to do four months a year of medical school during the off-season and be in the States practicing and playing football for the rest of the year,” Duvernay-Tardif said. “[My] end goal is to be on the football field with a degree from McGill.”

“Medical school really helped me with the way I approach football. It’s really strategic […it has] helped me to be a student of the game,” Duvernay-Tardif explained.  “And the other way around, when you come back from playing a full season in the NFL, it gives you a great perspective […] it helped me to keep my composure and still have a logical approach a in stressful situations.”

The potential Duvernay-Tardif displayed as a Redmen has earned him a role as a starter in the NFL. It took a lot of work and Duvernay-Tardif certainly doesn’t take it for granted.

“This year, the biggest difference is my understanding of the game [….] I’m able to see the defence as a whole and understand the concept and what they’re trying to accomplish. This comes from film studies,” Duvernay-Tardif said. “The biggest part of preparation and training [for football] is done in the classroom. In this regard, medical school has prepared me for those challenges.”

 

Poutine or barbeque: 

“Poutine.”

Plateau or Old Port: 

“Plateau, just because I feel it’s more authentic and [there are fewer] tourists.”

Favourite place on campus: “Thompson House. After our exams at medical school, we would go there and have a beer and decompress and talk about the exam. That’s one of my best places to hang out on campus.”

Piece of advice he would give to others: 

“If you have a plan, take the proper action to make sure that plan can happen, and just go all out.”

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