Super Bowl champ fighting on front lines of COVID-19 pandemic

Months after helping the Kansas City Chiefs win the Super Bowl, Laurent Duvernay-Tardif is facing a different challenge.
NFL: AUG 31 Preseason - Titans at Chiefs
Kansas City Chiefs guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif during a preseason game against the Tennessee Titans in Kansas City, Mo., on Aug. 31, 2017. Scott Winters / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images file

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By Ali Gostanian

Nearly three months after having helped the Kansas City Chiefs win the Super Bowl, Laurent Duvernay-Tardif is on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Chiefs right guard, who earned his doctor of medicine degree in 2018, said in Sports Illustrated that he took a vacation with his girlfriend to celebrate the Super Bowl win. When he returned home to Canada, everything had changed.

After a 14-day quarantine, he knew he had to put his medical training to use. Canada's health ministry had recently launched a campaign to recruit health care professionals and medical students to help fight the pandemic. Duvernay-Tardif quickly signed up.

"First, I registered for a crash course, where I reviewed the basics of how to put a surgical gown on and learn all the steps for sanitizing, because that stuff is more important than ever, to protect not only yourself but your patients," Duvernay-Tardif told Sports Illustrated's Greg Bishop.

He said he was assigned to a long-term care facility about an hour from his hometown, Montreal. He is working in a nursing role, as he hasn't completed the residency part of his program and doesn't yet have a license to practice medicine.

Full coverage of the coronavirus outbreak

Duvernay-Tardif, whose first day at the facility was Friday, said in Sports Illustrated that he was nervous, but he compared it to the "good nerves" he feels before a big game. He noted, however, that there are major differences between playing football, even in the Super Bowl, and fighting a deadly virus as a health care worker on the front lines.

"Back in February, I knew that 100 million-plus people were going to be watching, and I wanted to win. When you're going in to help it's more about your duty as a doctor and a citizen. It's not the time to be the hero and be impulsive," he said.

Duvernay-Tardif also weighed in on whether the NFL will return in September, saying it's too soon to know when sports might come back, because the health and well-being of the public are more important.

"What I can say is if we're not playing in September, knowing all the implications of what sport means for a nation and the money behind this huge industry, there are going to be bigger issues than not playing football," he said.

CORRECTION (April 29, 2020, 6:55 p.m. ET): An earlier version of this article inaccurately described Laurent Duvernay-Tardif as the first medical doctor to play in the NFL. He is not. Dr. Bill McColl played for the Chicago Bears through 1959 after having received his medical degree in 1955.