On February 27, Mont Saint-Hilaire, Quebec native Laurent Duvernay-Tardif signed a reported five-year, $41.25 million contract extension with the Kansas City Chiefs, making him the highest-paid Canadian offensive-side football player ever, and fourth-highest paid guard in the National Football League.
Duvernay-Tardif, who is currently working toward completing his PhD requirements at McGill University, sat down with NFL Canada to discuss his experience in Kansas City, offseason routine and the rise of football in Quebec and across Canada.
On signing a long-term contract with the Chiefs:
I only realized that I had a chance to play professional football after my third year of university when I switched positions from defensive line to offensive line. That’s when everything started falling into place and I knew I had a chance to be drafted. That was big news, but you also realize quickly when you get drafted that you start right back at the bottom in a new locker room. That’s when I felt like I had to win my position as a starter in Year 2 and then perform well enough on the field to get a contract done a year early like the Chiefs have done with me.
On his experience in Kansas City:
When I first got to Kansas City, all the reasons my teammates, coaches and fans love me right now – the atypical football player who speaks French and is in medical school – that was a learning curve in my relationship with them. What people were joking about at the beginning of my career are now my most respected attributes. People respect what I’m trying to do. They accept Dr. Duvernay-Tardif in the locker room.
On the Chiefs’ offensive line camaraderie:
Inside the locker room, there were a couple really good guys who took me under their wing at the beginning and really helped me in the process. Every training camp there’s fifteen guys competing for seven jobs at the o-line position. You know half of those guys are not going to be there at the kick-off of the season. It’s a unique relationship because even though everyone is competing for the same job, everyone is helping each other. All the vets that were in Kansas City when I first got there helped me get better. They gave me teaching points; they watched film with me to help me. When I got the starting job in my second year, I sat down with a couple vets I basically took the starting job from, and they took the time to help me and teach me. That meant a lot to me. It reminds you that you’re always pushing in the same direction even though you’re all competing for the same job.
On his medical ambitions and day-to-day life in the offseason:
Right now I’m doing geriatrics medicine, taking care of older patients. It’s an easier lifestyle than surgery or internal medicine. Starting at 8 a.m. this morning I was doing a clinic and I just finished. I need to be on the hospital floor at 1 p.m. in geriatrics for the rest of the day and after that it’s straight to the gym. I usually get home around 8:30 or 9 p.m. and try to study a bit. I was supposed to graduate this summer, but what happened is that we made the playoffs the last two years! (laughing) I had to cancel my rotation at the hospital so now I’m going to graduate next year.
On football in Canada and Quebec:
There’s a lot of camaraderie in the Canadian university football community because we know it doesn’t happen to everyone, and we know the path we’re choosing is a little bit different than guys playing in the NCAA. I’m proud of everyone that’s getting attention. When you speak French on an NFL field after a victory, it’s a huge feeling, and it makes me very proud to represent Montreal, Quebec and Canada.
On what it was like to play against fellow Quebec native Mehdi Abdesmad last season:
It was awesome! I was pumped when I heard that he got activated, and then I started realizing that I was going to face him. Of course, you know a lot of people are going to be watching because a lot of people in Montreal love football. It was a great feeling; for the first time I kind of realized what it’s like to be an NCAA player in the league playing against old teammates. I had that feeling for the first time and that’s something I really enjoyed.
On what Canadian football players need to know:
I speak with (University of Laval tight end) Antony Auclair on a regular basis, and what I keep telling him is that we can play with those guys. People are not afraid or shy to look north of the border to see what’s cooking, there’s some really good talent. As long as you believe in yourself when you get a shot to be on a football field in the NFL, whether it’s OTAs, minicamp, training camp or preseason, it doesn’t matter where you come from, you just need to deliver and do your job. If you show the athletic ability, coaches are willing to give you a chance. When you’re on the field, it’s game on and anyone can earn a spot – it doesn’t matter where you come from. I’m proud to see more guys having the chance to have access to those kinds of opportunities, and I’m pumped to see more guys taking those opportunities.
On the moment he felt football exploding in Canada:
I was watching film toward the end of the season this year, and (Chiefs GM) John Dorsey and (Colts GM) Chris Ballard stopped by. Ballard said, ‘Hey Larry, I looked at your boy from Quebec, Antony Auclair. He’s killing it! This guy has a shot.’
“‘I thought, ‘we’re really creating something.’”