Laurent Duvernay-Tardif is remaining true to himself.
The six-foot-five, 321-pound offensive lineman signed a five-year contract extension with the NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs on Tuesday. The deal is reportedly worth US$41.25 million with $20 million guaranteed.
The contract makes the 25-year-old native of Mont-St-Hilaire, Que., one of the NFL’s highest-paid guards and should provide him with financial security for the rest of his life. But Duvernay-Tardif has no intentions of either halting or delaying his medical school studies at McGill University.
Earlier this month, Duvernay-Tardif returned to Montreal to resume his studies and expects to complete his medical degree in 2018.
“I promised myself when I got drafted that I was going to finish my medical degree no matter what happened,” Duvernay-Tardif said. “The last three years once the season was over I’m back in Montreal to study, to work in hospitals and I’m going to continue doing that until I graduate.
“That’s something I’m really looking forward to, to graduating and being a doctor while still playing football. In that regard, I’m really looking forward to the kickoff of the 2018 season. Since Day 1, football and medical school were my passions and they still are.”
Duvernay-Tardif signed a four-year, $2.35-million deal with the Chiefs after being selected in the sixth round, No. 200 overall, in the 2014 NFL draft out of McGill University. He would’ve become a free agent after the 2017 season.
A converted defensive lineman, Duvernay-Tardif has wasted no time making his mark in NFL, starting 27-of-30 games over three seasons.
He 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 –hitting the field in every game he dressed for.
The Chiefs finished atop the AFC West with a 12-4 record to secure the No. 2 playoff seed in the AFC. However their season ended bitterly with an 18-16 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers in a divisional playoff contest.
While the new deal gives Duvernay-Tardif financial security, it also dramatically increases the weight of expectation on his shoulders.
“You always have the pressure to perform but at the same time people were more inclined to say I was learning,” Duvernay-Tardif said. “Now I know people will judge me and critique me and that’s fine because that’s part of the deal.
“But it also motivates me to make sure I’m the best at my position next year to prove to everybody I deserve that contract. It’s a huge sign of confidence from the Chiefs.”
The humble Duvernay-Tardif said he doesn’t have any immediate purchases in mind. But after signing his deal, he allowed himself to celebrate by having a barbecue lunch in Kansas City with his agent and girlfriend.
“Kansas City barbecue is always very rewarding,” he said with a chuckle. “It’s going to be a little hard to go back to work (at Montreal hospital Wednesday morning) but it’s in a good way in the sense that I’m still doing what I love and now I’ve got good financial compensation for what I am doing on the football field.
“But I want to focus on keeping the student-athlete model for as long as I can.”
Duvernay-Tardif relishes not only being a role model for youth in this country but also living proof that Canadian university football players can excel on the sport’s biggest stage after electing to attend school north of the border.
“What it means for Canadian football players is that, yes there is another way other than going to an NCAA school,” he said. “You can go to a good school (in Canada) and play football and if you do well and put in the effort you can succeed.
“I am proud of that and I hope I can influence in a positive way kids who play football all across the country.”