Profils de footballeurs RSEQ: Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, LO, McGill Redmen
A top prospect for the Canadian Football League’s 2014 draft, Laurent Duvernay-Tardif was literally an unknown when he walked onto the football field at College Andre Grasset five years ago. By the end of his CEGEP career however, he was a hotly pursued recruit who ended up at McGill more by mistake than intent.
“I wrote the wrong date in my agenda and missed my interview for the French universities,” said Tardif.
Fortunately for McGill, he didn’t get the date wrong for that interview where he impressed the admissions panel such that he was accepted into the faculty of medicine.
“I was nervous about the English,” said Tardif when asked why arguably the top medical school in the country wasn’t first on his list of universities. “But I was very happy to be accepted by McGill.”
The only person happier with Tardif’s acceptance to McGill was head football coach Clint Uttley, who describes his top offensive lineman as “physically gifted”.
At 6-foot-5 and 305 pounds, Tardif makes a physical statement on the field. He started his football career playing on the defensive line but switched to offence in his sophomore year.
“It’s more strategic and less aggressive,” said Duvernay-Tardif of his new position.
That Tardif brings more than brawn to the field goes without saying. He’s in his fourth year of medical school, managing the tremendous commitment athletics and academics require.
Uttley has accommodated Tardif’s unique academic demands by reducing his practice commitments, but Tardif says combing football and medical school has been instrumental to his on-field success.
“Being at school full-time helps me focus,” he says. “On Friday nights when I have a game, I leave class change out of my pants and play. It works for me.”
Uttley says that besides Duvernay-Tardif’s obvious physical gifts, his intensity on the field sets him apart from the pack.
“He’s the kind of guy other players hate,” said Uttley. “He’s mean out there. He looks to break their spirit and touch their soul.”
It’s no wonder then that Duvernay-Tardif has been attracting a fair amount of attention from the pros, and not just in the CFL. He spent the off season working hard in the gym preparing for the 2013 CIS East-West Bowl last May in London, Ont., impressing both on and off the field. In the gym he bench-pressed 225 pounds 36 times. On the field, he got some great feedback from the press and scouts.
“Really polished and technically he's very sound,” said Justin Dunk of CLF.com. “Incredibly athletic and he's got all the tools to work with.”
Since then, word has spread south of the border, where several NFL teams have demonstrated interest in Duverney-Tardif. To see how far that interest goes, he is considered to be a leading candidate for selection to the East-West Shrine Bowl in January, an all-star game primarily for NCAA seniors. Then he is expected to be heading to the U.S. after the 2014 season to train in anticipation of the National Football League’s evaluation camp in February.
Does that mean he’ll put his dreams of being a doctor aside in favour of a pro career?
While admitting that anything can happen between now and the CFL and NFL drafts, Duvernay-Tardif wants to see where football will take him. He knows that he shows well in the gym and on the field, but he also knows that his long-term career is in medicine.
“I’m young, so I’d like take a few years to play and explore my passion,” said Duvernay-Tardif. “I have lots of time to be a doctor.”
Indeed, former Redmen linebacker Jean-Philippe Darche left McGill medicine for a career in the NFL spending nine years as a long-snapper with the Seattle Seahawks and Kansas City Chiefs. Upon retiring in 2009, Darche re-entered medical school at the University of Kansas and is scheduled to graduate in 2014.
Another McGill standout to make the NFL was Randy Chevrier, who was drafted by Jacksonville and went on to play for Dallas and Cincinnati before moving on to the CFL, where he currently plays for the Calgary Stampeders.
So while Duvernay-Tardif sets his sights on becoming the third member of the Redmen to play in the NFL, he knows that a career in pro sports can be fleeting. Thankfully he's blessed with a pretty good back up plan.