ST. JOSEPH, Mo. -- The balance between being a pro football player and a medical student can’t be easy to manage, as Laurent Duvernay-Tardif has learned since being drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs last year. There aren’t enough hours in the day during those times he’s dragged into both worlds at once.
Duvernay-Tardif has balanced things well enough, though. He remains on track to be an M.D. at this time next year.
Proof arrived in his football world Monday when the Chiefs, in their search for the right combination of players for their offensive line, put Duvernay-Tardif in the starting lineup at right guard.
The move isn’t necessarily permanent. But Duvernay-Tardif likely will stay in the lineup at least through Friday night’s preseason game against the Seattle Seahawks at Arrowhead Stadium.
If he stays as a starter when the regular season begins, that would be validation for the Chiefs, who saw Duvernay-Tardif’s football ability and were willing to work around his medical school commitments, despite the fact he played in college at Canada’s McGill University.
It would also be a validation for Duvernay-Tardif; proof that he can live in two very demanding worlds. Training camp is the one time of year, he said, when it’s all about football for him.
“Nothing but football, for sure,’’ he said after Monday’s practice session. “During the season last year, on the day off, it’s always good to put yourself in the library and read three hours or so about medical stuff. That helps me stay focused on football because it gives me a break. It also helps me a lot when I’m going back to medical school during the offseason to stay on top of things. There are things you can forget quickly if you don’t stay on top of them."
Duvernay-Tardif returned to McGill for classes at the end of the Chiefs’ season last year. His academic term was ongoing when the Chiefs began their offseason workouts, so he stayed in Canada while his teammates started their conditioning sessions in April.
But he arrived in time for the first offseason practice a month later and did so in shape. Working with a personal trainer he hired in Montreal, Duvernay-Tardif used a workout plan the Chiefs provided for him.
“I gained 15 pounds and I still have the same body fat,’’ said Duvernay-Tardif, who indicated he was up to about 320 pounds. “I think that proves I’m working hard. I think the coaches trust me on that. They know I’ve been being in med school and playing football at the same time for five years. Now I have the chance to play football 100 percent eight months of the year and study at med school for the rest of the time. It’s helped me focus more on both."
Sometimes, though, he needs to choose between the demands of med school and those of football. During those times, he said, it’s never much of a conflict.
“When I’m back in med school, I think of myself as a medical student who plays football,’’ he said. “When I play football, I think of myself as a football player who studies medicine. I try to make the switch as soon as I arrive in Kansas City off the plane. I switch myself to football mode. When I’m in school, I’m a student-athlete who works hard in the gym but knows he has to take exams like everybody else.’’