Almost three months ago, Kansas City Chiefs player Laurent Duvernay-Tardif was parading down Main Street in downtown Kansas City celebrating a Super Bowl LIV victory with his teammates. Today, he is walking the halls of a Montreal-area medical facility wearing a medical mask and face shield.
In a personal essay, the Chiefs offensive lineman tells Sports Illustrated that to celebrate his team’s win, he and his girlfriend rented a boat to sail around the Caribbean, where—with limited WiFi access—they were keeping an eye on the coronavirus spread. He knew it was time to head home to Canada when the virus hit the U.S.
Duvernay-Tardiff, who holds a doctorate in medicine, expresses frustration when he got home, as he witnessed so many people not obeying social distancing guidelines. Meanwhile, the pandemic progressively got worse. Things really hit home when his two worlds, sport and medicine, collided.
“I don’t have a specialty yet, and I haven’t done the residency portion of the program,” he tells SI. “And while I don’t watch many games on television, I do know how big of an industry sport is. When the NBA halted its operation and so did the NHL, it really hit me.”
He knew he had to put his health care degree to use and help out, knowing the risks involved.
“I had to check in with the Chiefs from a contract standpoint,” he says. “They’ve been amazing. They were proud of the fact that I wanted to go help. They said they would support me.”
After taking a crash course on pandemic-era medical care and sanitizing practices, Duvernay-Tardiff scrubbed in on April 24—during the NFL draft, no less—at a long-term care facility in South Shore, Quebec (about an hour outside of Montreal). Long-term care facilities are among the hardest being hit by the pandemic.
The player currently serves on the NFL Players Association’s task force to determine when professional football will be safe to play again and what precautions can be taken when the game returns. For now, it’s too soon to tell.
“Playing in the Super Bowl vs. heading back to the medical system during a pandemic is totally different,” Duvernay-Tardiff tells SI. “Back in February, I knew that 100 million-plus people were going to be watching, and I wanted to win. When you’re going in to help it’s more about your duty as a doctor and a citizen. It’s not the time to be the hero and be impulsive. You’ve gotta do it the right way.”