Laurent Duvernay-Tardif to make NFL debut for Kansas City Chiefs
Mont-Saint-Hilaire, Que., native played for McGill Redmen
Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, a native of Mont-St-Hilaire, Que., will make his NFL debut as a starter for the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday.
Andy Reid, the team's head coach, confirmed his spot in the line up as the starting right guard last Monday.
"It's just a great news to finally know for sure that I'm going to start," Duvernay-Tardif told CBC from his home in Kansas City.
Duvernay-Tardif says he was expecting to be named the starter for a couple of weeks now and Reid's announcement was simply confirmation.
Long road to the NFL
But given the path Duvernay-Tardif took to the NFL, it was not unfair for observers of the Chiefs to have considered him a long shot to make it when training camp began.
Before arriving at the Chief's camp in 2014, he had only played a few snaps of American football.
Learning to play right guard is far from easy.
The position demands Duvernay-Tardif harness a blend of brute strength, speed and split second decision making.
When the team does a running play, the guard clears the way for the ball carrier. When the team does a passing play, the guard's job is to protect the quarterback (the most valuable asset on the field) from a complicated wave of blitzing defenders.
"I don't know if it (happened quickly) or not, but I think I just worked hard and when you work hard, good things happen," Duvernay-Tardif said.
"Throughout last year, even though I didn't get a chance to play, I got a chance to work a lot on my technique and get a chance to understand a bit more what American football was about and learn a bit more the concept and the playbook."
Balancing medical school with football
For those familiar with Duvernay-Tardif, the fact that he picked up the complexities of the American game in only one year is not a surprise.
He's displayed a remarkable ability to balance his life between the football field and the class room since he first walked on to McGill's campus as a freshman in 2009.
Even today, while he plays in the NFL, he has not abandoned his studies. Duvernay-Tardif is still pursuing a degree in medicine during the off-season.
This year, he opted to skip Chief's conditioning work outs in the spring so he could study. His coaches gave him a work-out program to follow on his own and he proved he could stick to it by adding 20 pounds of muscle.
Duvernay-Tardif weighed under 300 pounds at his pro-day in 2014. Today he tips the scale at 320 pounds while maintaining the same body fat percentage.
Squaring off with the NFL's top defensive player: J.J. Watt
Duvernay-Tardif's first assignment on Sunday will include stopping NFL's most feared player; J.J. Watt, the NFL's reigning defensive player of the year.
"If you want to be the best you have to play against the best and that's what I'm going to do this weekend," Duvernay-Tardif said.
"I'm going to get myself ready ... what I heard from the vets is to prepare yourself the same way that you would prepare for anybody else."
Duvernay-Tardif said he's using every free minute he has to prepare for Watt, even if it means temporarily closing himself off from friends and family who are excited to talk to him about his debut.
"I haven't been on my Facebook page, there is probably a couple of emails and messages, but I just want to focus on football. It's a great opportunity for me but it's also a lot of pressure ... if I want to play next week, I have to be good this week."
Duvernay-Tardif and the Kansas City Chiefs play J.J. Watt and the Houston Texans on Sunday at 1 p.m. ET.