Laurent Duvernay-Tardif's selfless journey from the Super Bowl to the coronavirus front line

The sports world will be watching and waiting on Sunday to see if Tom Brady can make more NFL history as he leads Tampa Bay Buccaneers against Kansas City Chiefs in the Super Bowl. Yet, for many, one of the real sporting heroes of the moment will not even be there.
The Chiefs will again be without regular starting right guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif after he opted out of his contract prior to the 2020-21 season to fight the coronavirus outbreak at a long-term care facility in his native Canada.

Duvernay-Tardif speaks to the media prior to Super Bowl LIV

The 29-year-old felt it was his moral obligation to lend a helping hand and became the first of over 60 NFL players to opt out of their contracts back in August over Covid-19 concerns.
Laureus NFL legend Marcus Allen, who played five seasons for the Chiefs, said: “Laurent is a credit to the NFL and to the whole world of sport. He made a huge sacrifice in opting out of his contract and choosing to make a difference off the field.
“In deciding to spend the year working in the medical field, he has impacted so many lives through his unselfish actions and we owe so much to all of the front-line heroes that have risked their own lives to help save others.
“Laurent’s actions encompass Laureus values and have helped to provide vital support to disadvantaged and vulnerable individuals during these difficult times. I hope that we’ll soon see him back on the field in a Chiefs uniform.”

Marcus Allen during a Sport for Good visit in Long Beach, California


With the Chiefs returning to the Super Bowl for a second consecutive year, Duvernay-Tardif could be forgiven for questioning whether he made the right decision, but it says a lot about him that he was willing to sacrifice a potential championship while at the peak of his footballing powers.
“In the first week or two of the season (Kelechi) Osemele — the guard they signed right after I opted out — injured himself pretty badly. My first thought went from, ‘that could have been me’ to ‘what are they going to do now?’” he explained ahead of this year’s playoffs.
“Then (guard Mitchell) Schwartz went down (in week seven) … and I was like, ‘I would pay a lot of money for a flight to Kansas City, get tested, and parachute onto the field — and contribute.’ But this opt-out is irrevocable … there have been some tough moments for sure.
“I miss the games. I miss playing in front of, like, 80,000 people — but nobody is playing in front of 80,000 people this year. That actually helped me cope with it a little better.”

Duvernay-Tardif raises the Vince Lombardi Trophy after the Chiefs defeated San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl LIV

As Duvernay-Tardif hasn’t yet pursued a specialisation in the medical field, his tasks have included putting in IVs, administering medication and drawing blood.
“I’m not a doctor, per se. I’ve got my M.D. (Doctor of Medicine degree) but I haven’t started my residency, so I’m not working as a fully qualified doctor in there,” he explained.
“I have a pretty broad range of responsibilities, but at the end of the day I feel like the most important thing is to be there to help. With people not able to have visits with their families at times, because of safety and everything, having that human connection is what really makes a difference.
“At school we learned how to treat patients. Now I’m learning how to care for patients. It’s really different, because these people aren’t ever going to go back home, and they’re either going to die from Covid-19 or something else. So what matters most is to make sure that they’re comfortable and they preserve their dignity.”
Like Duvernay-Tardif, many of the programmes supported by the Laureus Sport For Good Foundation have had to adapt to new ways of working with the pandemic preventing face-to-face coaching and educational sessions from taking place.
Laureus launched the Sport for Good Response Fund to meet challenges related to the secondary effects of the pandemic and public health restrictions, a move that has been able to support more than 60 organisations across the world.
With vaccinations being rolled out and optimism that life will gradually return to normal in the coming months, Duvernay-Tardif has remained in the best shape possible with a view to returning to the NFL for the 2021-22 season.

Duvernay-Tardif celebrates with tight end Travis Kelce after he scored a touchdown against the Philadelphia Eagles

He accepts that there are no guarantees when it comes to regaining his spot in the team, particularly one that could be about to land back-to-back titles but has clearly maintained his drive and passion for the sport despite his absence.
The Canadian may feel he’ll need to make up for lost time when he eventually returns to action, but as the evergreen Brady has shown by dominating the sport well into his 40s, age is but a number.

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