“I wouldn’t be here if not for McGill,” says Super Bowl champ, Dr. Duvernay-Tardif

February 13, 2020  — 
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From left to right: Mia Melmed Goodman; Principal Suzanne Fortier; Dr. Laurent Duvernay-Tardif; and David Eidelman, Vice-Principal (Health Affairs) and Dean of the Faculty of Medicine Neale McDevitt

Two years ago, when Laurent Duvernay-Tardif crossed the stage at McGill’s Spring 2018 Convocation, he collected a hug from Principal Suzanne Fortier, as well as his medical degree – Medicinae Doctor et Chirurgiae Magister, to be exact. Doctor of medicine and master of surgery.

On February 12, in a ceremony at the McGill Sports Complex, Duvernay-Tardif returned to his old stomping grounds at the McGill Sports Complex, to collect another hug from the Principal – as well as several tote bags of McGill merch, including an enormous McGill sweatshirt that must have been tailor made to fit his 6’5”, 320-pound frame.

It was Duvernay-Tardif’s first visit to McGill since his Kansas City Chiefs won Super Bowl LIV with a 31-20 victory over the San Francisco 49ers on February 2, in Miami.

“We congratulate him on this incredible Super Bowl victory. What happiness he gave us all, it was really fantastic,” said Principal Suzanne Fortier. “It’s amazing how we are inspired by this man. For what he has done, of course, but also how he got there. His determination, his resilience, his commitment to always give his best. It is incredibly inspiring for all of us. We are also inspired by his generosity to go and motivate young people, to make them see that we can have dreams and that we can achieve them if we put in (the) effort.”

“I just want to underscore Laurent’s achievement,” said David Eidelman, vice-principal (Health Affairs) and dean of the Faculty of Medicine. “It’s really hard. Anybody who’s tried to get into medical school knows, that getting in alone is an achievement. And getting to play in the Super Bowl is an even bigger achievement… This is something that all McGillians are extremely proud of.”

The incredible journey

As part of the ceremony, LDT, as he is known to his fans, was honoured by McGill Athletics & Recreation with the unveiling of a banner recognizing his unparalleled accomplishments as the first active NFL player to earn a medical degree and the first doctor to win the Super Bowl.

“It’s been an awesome dream and it’s not only the journey of the last two weeks, it’s the journey of the last six years,” said the 28-year-old native of Mont St. Hilaire, Que., who was also serving as the Héma-Québec spokesperson, greeting donors at a blood drive at the Tomlinson Fieldhouse.

“Everything started back in 2014. I was a third-year medical student and I had that crazy dream of maybe trying to reach the NFL,” he said.

But Duvernay-Tardif stressed that he wasn’t about to put all his eggs in the NFL basket – a grueling league in which careers are often cut short by injury. “You have to make sure that you have a strong Plan A. And for me, Plan A was getting my degree in medicine,” he said. “But we all know that those kinds of dreams don’t happen with just you. You need a team.”

Supporting one man’s dream

LTD, along with his best friend and agent Sasha Ghavami, approached the Faculty of Medicine with the “crazy story of how we were going to accomplish that goal and get drafted in [by the NFL] in 2014.”

“I will always remember to what extent McGill accommodated me; to what extent they understood my dream and my vision to combine my two passions to the highest level, and show what student athletes are capable of – not just at school but also on the biggest sports stage in the world,” he said.

Working backward from 2018, the absolute deadline for Duvernay-Tardif to complete his studies, a plan was hammered out. As is his wont, LDT, stuck to the rigorous schedule with unwavering determination – through the 2014 NFL draft in which he was selected in the sixth round by the Kansas City Chiefs; through his signing of a $42-million contract extension in 2017; and through the demands of being a full-time medical student.

“I can tell you this; while I was at McGill there was never any doubt that I would complete this project. To have people here who believed in my project and supported me throughout the whole journey, who understood what I was trying to accomplish – the support was unbelievable. I wouldn’t be here if not for McGill,” he said, turning to Principal Fortier and David Eidelman, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine. “You guys made me a better human being.”

Coming full circle

Duvernay-Tardif closed with a pledge to help “promote the values of McGill, here and abroad,” and speaking of the unabashed pride he has in his alma mater and of being part of the worldwide McGill community.

“Every time I stand in front of camera and say ‘Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, McGill University,’ it makes me so proud,” he said. “Every time I have a conversation with [Chiefs Head Coach] Andy Reid and hear that his mother went to McGill and was one of the first women to graduate from the McGill Faculty of Medicine, it makes me proud.”

“In the Super Bowl after the win, I met my parents and Florence, my girlfriend [on the field]. It was an emotional moment,” said Duvernay-Tardif. “Then I heard somebody shout ‘McGill alumni’ behind me. I turned around and there are two guys, surgeons from Miami, who were McGill graduates… it’s awesome to be part of that community.”

“If I can help the Faculty in any way, if I can help the University or the football program – that’s what I want to do. I want to be the voice of this great institution that allowed me to be where I am today,” he said, smiling broadly. “I just want to say thank you, thank you for the banner. It’s really awesome to be here today and share this moment with you guys, because this is where everything started.”

Back to his roots. Laurent Duvernay-Tardif poses with members of the McGill varsity football team: defensive linemen Jonathan Wilding (#95) and Jacod Lavoie (#97) and head coach Ronald HilaireNeale McDevitt

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Article courtesy of The McGill Reporter

Article courtesy of The McGill Reporter