- Chiefs guard received M.D. this year
- Studied 14 hours a day for finals
- Is tenth player drafted out of Canada
Carson, California (CNN)Standing six-foot five-inches and weighing 321-pounds, Montreal native Laurent Duvernay-Tardif is not your average doctor.
The fifth-year NFL right guard is an integral part of the undefeated Kansas City Chiefs offensive line -- and a recent graduate of The Faculty of Medicine at McGill University.
Although team doctors have been pacing NFL sidelines for decades, Duvernay-Tardif is the first physician to suit up in pads and rough it up on the field.
"It's a pretty awesome feeling," the 27-year-old told CNN, after a big opening week road win over the Los Angeles Chargers. "It's good to step on that field knowing that you're the first active player with an M.D."
"You know, I've been working eight years for that, and all those times that people were like, 'You cannot do both, you have got to pick one or the other,' I decided to stay true to myself and keep going, keep grinding with that vision."
The Chiefs' big payoff
Kansas City made Duvernay-Tardif a sixth-round pick in 2014, in what was probably seen as a chancy move.
After all, being drafted from a Canadian college football program is a rarity: He is only the tenth in the past 52 years, according to data provided by Sportsnet. But the Quebecer forced his way onto the Chiefs' starting rotation by his second season.
The player walked into a unique situation at Kansas City. By coincidence, the mother of Chiefs' coach Andy Reid graduated with a medical degree -- also from McGill University.
"Not all the coaches saw my second career with that same optimism," Duvernay-Tardif told ESPN. "Some coaches asked me, 'How do we really know you want to play football?'"
With Reid's blessing, Duvernay-Tardiff continued his studies, returning to Montreal during offseasons to fulfill his clinical rotations in pediatrics, obstetrics, geriatrics and his preferred specialization emergency medicine.
"For the past four years I've been back and forth," he says, with a French inflection that exposes his roots. "As soon as the season is over I go back home and start my training."
To prepare for his final exams after last season, Duvernay-Tardif isolated himself in an apartment outside of Montreal and studied up to 14 hours a day, citing Reid's mantra of avoiding distractions.
He graduated as a fully-fledged doctor in May, wearing a white lab coat after the ceremony with his uniform number 76 stitched on the back.
Although Duvernay-Tardiff expects to begin his residency training in two years, his stellar play may put his medical career on hold.
Last year he was rewarded with a $41.25 million contract extension that commits him to football through the 2022 season.
With the way the Chiefs are playing, Reid is unlikely to tinker with the offensive line. Behind the doctor and his fellow linemen, the team is averaging a league-high 40 points in two wins this season.
The unit has given up just two sacks, allowing quarterback Patrick Mahomes enough time to throw 10 touchdowns and no interceptions with a completion rate of nearly 70%.
'It's a contact sport'
Given his background, it's no surprise that a few Chiefs teammates have approached Duvernay-Tardiff for advise on a tweaked shoulder, jammed thumb or other daily NFL ailments.