Chiefs' doc-to-be Duvernay-Tardif gets big-money extension
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) Laurent Duvernay-Tardif was going to be getting a handsome paycheck someday.
Turned out to be sooner than he expected.
The soon-to-be doctor signed a $41.25 million, five-year contract extension to play guard for the Chiefs this week, finding time to squeeze in a trip to Kansas City and make it official while doing his geriatrics rotation at Royal Victoria Hospital in Montreal.
The 2014 sixth-round pick out of McGill University is a rarity on several fronts. Few players from Canadian colleges make in the NFL, and fewer still are studying to become a physician.
''I think for me it's a question of principle,'' Duvernay-Tardif said Wednesday, taking time for a phone interview between patients. ''I try to pass on to kids that it's possible to pursue two passions at the same time. I have a passion for football and a passion for medicine.''
That's why he's not walking away from the world of exam rooms and surgical bays.
Ever since was chosen with the 200th pick, Duvernay-Tardif has spent a few months every offseason finishing up his residency requirements. It's taken longer than it would have had he not pursued an NFL career, but he's nonetheless close to wrapping things up.
He has another couple of months this offseason before returning to Kansas City for the Chiefs' offseason program, then has a couple months next spring before finishing in May 2018.
''I've been studying for six years now. I think it makes sense to finish that,'' he said. ''There will be questions about residency and specializing and all that after, because you need to be a fulltime student to do all that, but first thing's first: Let's finish next year and see how it goes.''
Things have gone pretty well for Duvernay-Tardif in Kansas City.
He spent his rookie year primarily as a backup, trying to adjust to the highest level of football after coming from something akin to Division III. But by his second year, he had forced his way into the starting lineup. And while there were plenty of growing pains, and plenty of grumbling from fans with little patience, Duvernay-Tardif slowly began to grasp life in the NFL.
He started all but two games last year, which he missed with an ankle injury, and performed at such a high level that the Chiefs approached him recently about a contract extension - even though he wasn't eligible for free agency until next year.
''Laurent has grown significantly in his three years as a professional,'' Chiefs general manager John Dorsey said. ''He brings a lot of mental and physical toughness to the position, and last season he was able to become a key contributor to our offense. Laurent has a bright future here.''
In many ways, Duvernay-Tardif is a renaissance man. He gets that from his parents.
They operated a vineyard when Duvernay-Tardif was young, then in 1999 decided to sell just about everything and buy a boat. They wound up spending a year sailing around the Caribbean, catching fish off the boat for dinner and purchasing fruits and vegetables whenever they drifted into port.
Eight years later, the family made a similar trip down the eastern seaboard, spending time in the Bahamas and Turks and Caicos. Their adventures provided the inspiration for the name of the bakery they would open upon returning to Canada: ''Le Pain dans les Voiles,'' or, ''Bread in the Sails.''
It was at the family bakery Tuesday that Duvernay-Tardif teared up while speaking to a handful of local reporters, the magnitude of the contract he had just signed getting to him.
Sure, doctors get paid well. But he's now one of the highest-paid guards in the NFL.
''It just took me at some point,'' Duvernay-Tardif said. ''I was looking at my mom and dad with their little uniforms, selling bread to customers. I used to spend all my days and weekends there.''
That was before he began spending all his extra time in the hospital.
Duvernay-Tardif briefly gave up football when he began to pursue medicine, but his love for the game drew him back. So despite people telling him over and over that he wouldn't be able to do both, the naturally inquisitive Duvernay-Tardif began to juggle two demanding careers.
It's a juggling act that he plans to continue for a while.
''I signed a five-year extension because I plan on playing those five years. That's my mindset right now,'' he said. ''I'm trying to picture now what my schedule will be like in terms of medical school and everything, but one decision I made yesterday was to play all that contract.''
Duvernay-Tardif is required to do pediatrics, obstetrics and geriatric rotations as part of his residency program, but whenever he gets an elective rotation, he chooses emergency medicine. And when his playing days are over, that is where he would like to specialize.
But for now, his biggest responsibility will be keeping Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith healthy.
Duvernay-Tardif will be getting paid handsomely for it, too.
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