Laurent Duvernay-Tardif is a Super Bowl champion, but before he earned his ring, he earned his degree in medicine. In fact, he is the first ever medical doctor to play in the NFL. The Canadian is using the offseason to combat coronavirus pandemic as a doctor, putting typical offseason work on hold to help those impacted by the virus at a long-term care facility near Montreal.
Duvernay-Tardif penned a first-person telling for Sports Illustrated of his experience in the field and how he made the decision to go back to the profession. He has a doctorate in medicine, with no speciality yet. The right guard helped the Kansas City Chiefs raise the Lombardi Trophy against the San Francisco 49ers in February. In the months since then, life for everyone has changed drastically.
"After my team triumphed, I went back to the parade in Kansas City, which is totally inconceivable right now. Adding a million people in the streets? ...It's so wild to even think back to then, this time two months ago that feels like another lifetime," he wrote.
For him, the situation became real when he was on vacation after the Super Bowl win, sailing around the Caribbean. Checking the news throughout his vacation with his girlfriend, they both realized they would have to go home to Canada earlier than expected. While on the way back home, he received news that anyone returning to the country would have to isolate for 14 days. He boarded the plane in one world, and landed in a different one, filled with fear, separation, and unknowns.
"I had only wanted to get away, and then I wished I had never left. Soon into the crisis I started to ask how I could help," he said, but falling into a "gray area" without a license put him in a tough spot.
Eventually, health ministry officials in Canada began recruiting health care professionals, but that's when reality hit.
"I had already wanted to (help), but when it's real, it hits you, the gravity involved," Duvernay-Tardif.
There was never an issue with his NFL contract. The Chiefs told him they were proud of the work he was doing.
After a crash course on all the necessities, he began working on the front line on April 24.
"I felt nervous the night before, but a good nervous, like before a game, and I packed everything neatly: scrubs, white coat, extra pens, even a second pair of shoes that I could leave in my locker, knowing they were clean."
Working with COVID patients is not like what he experienced before.
"Honestly, I was drained after—and looking forward to going back," he wrote.
Some patients have recognized Duvernay-Tardif, commenting on how he just won the Super Bowl. He has told them that now, he's just someone who wants to help.