It’s hard for professional athletes to say no to the NFL, the American Football League, one of the most popular and highest paid in the United States. Laurent Duverne-Tardiff, 31, has done so more than once. The latest refusal came a few days ago when the New York striker Jets told the press that he does not currently plan to return in the fall for a new season. The reason? The Canadian has chosen his medical career, an unusual outcome for athletes in this category. Duverne-Tardiff will be tested in July at a hospital in Montreal with the idea of becoming a doctor.
“I will give priority to medicine … we will see what happens in September,” Duverne-Tardiff told the Associated Press last Wednesday. “After eight years in the NFL and I don’t want to sound pretentious, but I think I’ve won the right to do what’s best for me, not just for football, it’s time to bet a little on myself,” he added. . In 2018, the athlete became the first active NFL player with a medical degree. In March, he became a free agent, allowing him to negotiate a contract with each team. He did not reveal with whom he could return to the court, although he assures that there are offers from four franchises.
Duverne-Tardif is not just every player. In February 2020, he reached the top of the NFL with Kansas City Chiefs after winning Super Bowl 54. His job was to defend Patrick Mahoms during the attack that defeated San Francisco that night, coming from behind in an exciting contested final in Miami. He is one of 13 Canadians to lift the Vince Lombardi trophy.
In this match in Miami for the title of Duvarne-Tardif, he first heard about the coronavirus, which has been causing chaos in several Asian cities for several months. The pandemic overshadowed his most important triumph in his career as a professional athlete. “I was just disappointed. My events, my legitimate events, my press interviews have been canceled. But I thought this whole thing was so much bigger than not being able to celebrate winning the Super Bowl, “he said in April 2020.
With the new season in doubt, Duverne-Tardiff decided he wanted to be part of the decision. His supervisor asked him not to leave his building in Montreal because he could become infected and jeopardize his contract, but the athlete decided to take a risk and put into practice what he learned at McGill University School of Medicine. He started working at a public hospital in the city, where he covered shifts as a stretcher and assistant nurses, something simple for a man of 1.95 meters and 145 kilograms. “There was a battle in the world … I would have felt cowardly if I had done nothing,” the player said.
It was nine weeks that changed his life. Most of the patients he treats were in their 80s. “These were people who had not seen their family for 10 weeks because they were quarantined in their rooms. The only interaction they had was with people like us, with masks, gloves and visors. The most important thing was to communicate with them, to preserve their dignity and to be the most optimistic for them, something very difficult, “he later told the press.
The player surprised everyone in the summer of 2020, when he announced that he would not return to the league to defend the championship. “I have seen with my own eyes the shortage of toilets, I have seen people get sick and die. I don’t see how to continue with my affairs and football now. It’s fucked up because I love football, but it’s the price to follow my beliefs and what I think is the right thing to do, “said Duverne-Tardiff.
His decision was made. And this was applauded by his teammates. “It reflects a tremendous dedication to his profession,” said Andy Reed, the legendary NFL coach who led the Chiefs to victory against San Francisco in the historic fourth quarter, where they scored 21 points. Patrick Mahoms, the author of this feat, also dedicated his partner’s heroic words: “It will be difficult for him not to be here with us, but at the same time he wants to make the world a better place.” His work as a health worker earned him the Lou Marsh Awards, which recognize Canada’s most remarkable athletes each year, and Mohamed Ali, who honored athletes for their social work.
Duverne-Tardiff did not wear the Chiefs shirt again. He tried to keep fit by lifting weights in his Montreal apartment and studying his team’s book. All this when he was not in the hospital, a day that started early in the morning and lasted until three in the afternoon. He returned to Kansas at the end of 2021, but a broken arm during training separated him from the first team and he was moved to New York, where he played seven of the eight games in which he was available.
His future as a professional is uncertain at the moment. Although he made it clear that he is still not retiring from the courts. “I am relieved of the risk. And I believe that there will be a proposal at the table in September. If I want, I will accept it. If Medicine is going well and I feel called to be there in front of 80,000 spectators to play the sport I love, then I will go. But I want it to be on my terms, “said Duverne-Tardiff.
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