Football waits no more for Duvernay-Tardif

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Laurent Duvernay-Tardif planned to watch the second day of the recent NFL draft on TV, which was probably not a bad idea. There was a reasonable chance his name could be called in the third round.

Work called instead. Duvernay-Tardif, a third-year medical student at Montreal's McGill University, got called in around the time the draft started to the neonatal intensive care at that school's medical center to assist with an emergency C-section.

Football had to wait, and not for the first time. Maybe it's a good thing the Kansas City Chiefs waited until the sixth round and the next day, when he was off from medical school responsibilities, to select the offensive lineman.

His medical school duties aren't the only things that set Duvernay-Tardif apart from his new teammates. He is from Montreal and English is his second language. He speaks with a French-Canadian accent, though he communicates well in English.

He's well behind his American teammates in a football sense. Having played offensive line for just two years, his techniques are crude and he has plenty to learn. Offensive line coach Andy Heck spent a lot of time tutoring Duvernay-Tardif during the Chiefs' recent rookie camp.

But Duvernay-Tardif showed at that camp he's an excellent athlete for a 300-pound man.

“To know that now I'm going to have the focus only on football, for the next couple of years it's going to be 100 percent football, I think I'm going to be able to learn a lot more and progress more," he said.

The Chiefs share that hope. They, and other NFL teams, discovered Duvernay-Tardif at this past winter's East-West Shrine Game, where he had been invited to play after dominating his competition at McGill.

“We were really surprised at how big and athletic he was, and then he was physical," said Pat Sperduto, one of the scouts the Chiefs sent to practice that week. “He kind of really just surprised us with how good an athlete he was for such a big man."

So the Chiefs then found some video of Duvernay-Tardif playing at McGill.

“The competition may not be to the level you'd like, so he should dominate that competition, and he did," Sperduto said. “This kid has physical talent that should equate to being an NFL player."

It's not a surprise that Duvernay-Tardif wound up with the Chiefs. They not only were looking for linemen to develop after losing three at the position to free agency, but their draft is run by general manager John Dorsey, who has a reputation for finding players in unusual places.

Few have a more nontraditional background than Duvernay-Tardif. Football has been more of a hobby than anything for him, by necessity. Med school has come first, often at the expense of football.

Like typical third-year med students, he was scheduled for hospital rotations, and no concessions were made because Duvernay-Tardif was a football player. He occasionally received the overnight shift or morning shift, which conflicted with the regular football team meetings.

“Sometimes I wasn't able to go to the morning meeting," he said. “Every week, with the coaches, I was making my own schedule with them. ... We were having a special schedule.

“For sure sometimes there is a lot of sacrifice to do. I was trying to make the sacrifice more in my social life than in football and medicine, because those are my two real passions."

The Chiefs and Duvernay-Tardif are eager to see where this goes. He has a long way to come. The Chiefs have worked him into the playing rotation at both guard and tackle during rookie camp and offseason practices, but he's behind his new teammates in his techniques and general knowledge of the American game.

“But I think I'm athletic, and I go after it when I play," he said. “Those two aspects of the game are hard to coach. The technique aspect is maybe a bit easier."

Duvernay-Tardif isn't leaving medicine behind. He has one year of med school remaining, though this time he's planning for football to interfere with his studies.

"The plan right now with the faculty of medicine is that I'm going to be able to do two months a year during the offseason for four years and I'm going to graduate as a doctor probably in 2017 or '18, something like that," Duvernay-Tardif said.

That's an optimistic outlook, one built on the assumption he will make good with the Chiefs or another NFL team. Maybe he will and maybe he won't, but he's not making football a hobby. Except for during the offseason when he's back at med school, Duvernay-Tardif will, for a change, immerse himself in football.

“When you play football, you have to play 100 percent, and that's what I'm going to do," he said. “Hopefully, I'm going to be able to compete for a spot and be able to have some time on the field by the end of the season, or maybe [the next season] or something like that."