It’s been a meteoric rise for Canadian Laurent Duvernay-Tardif.
Taken in the sixth round, 200th overall, of the 2014 NFL draft from McGill University, the 25-year-old native of Mont-St-Hilaire, Que., has established himself as the Kansas City Chiefs’ starting right guard. And he’s done it while also continuing to study medicine at McGill.
“If you would have asked me after I got drafted where I’d be in three years, I don’t know if I would have been that confident to say I’d be a starter and doing decently,” a modest Duvernay-Tardif said from Austin, Tex. “But at the same time I quickly realized if you want to stick in the NFL you have to become an essential part of the team after your second or third year, otherwise they’re going to find somebody to replace you.
“There’s no other way to stick in the NFL. You’ve got to show you can perform and be an important part of an offensive line or team.”
Duvernay-Tardif, a converted defensive lineman, made the Chiefs’ 53-man roster as a rookie but didn’t play. Dubbed “Canadian Doctor” and “Larry” by his teammates, Duvernay-Tardif became a starter in 2015, playing 13 games before making a career-best 14 starts this year â€” playing every game he dressed for.
After earning a 2015 wild-card post-season berth with an 11-5 record, the Chiefs finished atop the AFC West at 12-4. That secured Kansas City the second seed in the AFC playoffs and home-field advantage for the divisional game Jan. 15.
Head coach Andy Reid rewarded his players by giving them this week off. Duvernay-Tardif, who’s spending his downtime in Austin with Chiefs centre Mitch Morse and his family, even played golf Wednesday.
“I don’t play a lot and at this point in the season, your wrists, your shoulders, everything, hurts a little bit,” he said. “It was more just a reason to be outside and hang out with nice people.
“It was exactly what I was looking for, to be able to relax and enjoy the day.”
Duvernay-Tardif’s transition to the American game wasn’t a seamless one. He had to adjust to a new position (guard from tackle) and game (four downs instead of three) while facing bigger, stronger and faster players lining up right across from him instead of a yard off the ball.
“McGill has a great program and I learned a lot there but when I got to the NFL, it was totally different,” Duvernay-Tardif said. “With no yard between you and the defensive line .. it changes the way you play a little bit.
“The first couple of weeks at my first training camp, I wasn’t even able to see the linebacker blitz because they were that fast. It was really an adjustment but at the same time you’re always looking for challenges and coach Reid and (offensive line coach Andy Heck) took the time to help me … I’m very grateful for that.”
Duvernay-Tardif hasn’t enjoyed the luxury of relaxing after the NFL season as he’s spent the last two off-seasons juggling workouts with medical school commitments. While that makes for a very hectic schedule, Duvernay-Tardif remains intent on seeing his academic requirements through.
“I promised myself when I decided to go down this road I’d finish my degree,” he said. “We all know careers are so short in the NFL and sport in general and I want to prepare myself for after my (football) career because you don’t know how long it’s going to last.
“The stress of a season is totally different from the stress you experience in medical school. Of course, it’s a lot of work but at McGill I did both (football-academics) and now I have the chance to do one at a time.”
Duvernay-Tardif figures he’s roughly four months away from completing med school. But he might have to wait until 2018 to get his degree depending on how far the Chiefs go in the playoffs.
Kansas City will host Pittsburgh, Oakland or Houston next weekend. The Chiefs lost to the Texans (19-12) and Steelers (43-14) on the road this year but were 2-0 versus the Raiders.
The Chiefs will have the benefit of home-field advantage as their rabid fans make Arrowhead Stadium one of the NFL’s loudest venues.
“If I wasn’t playing for the Chiefs, playing at Arrowhead would be my worst nightmare,” Duvernay-Tardif said. “Just that energy you feel walking in … you know people are going to be there and it’s going to be loud.
“That’s what you’re looking for as a player. You want to have that 12th man cheering for you.”
And while the 2016 regular season was a solid one for Kansas City, Duvernay-Tardif said it would mean nothing without playoff success.
“Being the second seed and having the bye, that’s important,” he said. “But everybody realizes the focus is to (realize) the goal … we still have three more games to play.”
Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press