Chiefs Guard Wins Humanitarian Award

Jan 29, 2020; Miami, Florida, USA; Kansas City Chiefs offensive guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif during a press conference for Super Bowl LIV at JW Marriott Turnberry. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

A Kansas City Chiefs offensive lineman was recently recognized for his contributions during the pandemic. Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, a resident of Montreal, Quebec, Canada, took home the Muhammad Ali Sports Humanitarian Award during the ESPYs Saturday night as recognition for his service on the frontlines as a doctor during the COVID-19 outbreak.

The guard, who was the first to declare that he would opt out of the 2020 season due to concerns of the virus, is the only active player in the NFL with a medical doctorate.

After spending 2020 working at a long-term care facility in his hometown of Montreal, Duvernay-Tardif will be back in action for Kansas City this season, with aspirations to bring in the Chiefs’ second Super Bowl win in three years.

While at first opting out was a difficult decision for the McGill University graduate, he realizes that he made the better choice to serve medically during the pandemic.

“I’ve always tried to be the best athlete on the field. But I’ve also always wanted to be the best human being off the field,” Duvernay-Tardif told ESPN UK. “I have no regrets when it comes to opting out of the 2020 NFL season and working on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic in a long-term care facility. I knew that my purpose this last year was to use my medical background to care for others. My role wasn’t to play football, but instead to be on the front lines of the global pandemic.”

The Humanitarian Award at the ESPYs, named for longtime boxer Muhammad Ali, is given to an athlete who has given major contributions to their community and leadership on the playing field. For Duvernay-Tardif, the honor was extra special, as his work came in the middle of a pandemic. He took to Twitter Sunday to express his gratitude for winning a high honor.

“Being a professional athlete comes with a lot of privileges but also a responsibility to use your platform to have a positive impact in your community,” he wrote. “Winning this award for my work off the field is a huge honor.”

Duvernay-Tardif also received both Canadian and American recognition through sports in 2020, as he earned a share of Canada’s Lou Marsh Award in December, and he was one of the featured athletes in Sports Illustrated magazine’s Sportspersons of the Year.

However, being in the health professions brings into light one of the aspects of life, the element of surprise. For Duvernay-Tardif, the medical profession created many unknowns within his position.

“I never knew what I was walking into when I got to work each day. It was pretty hectic. Some days, there would be no issues. Other days, you’d get a patient with a runny nose and next thing you know there would be eight patients who tested positive. We had emergency red zones where positive patients would have to reside. It was hard. We lost a lot of patients. This past year really changed me.”

Laurent Duvernay-Tardif has served as an anchor on the right side of the Kansas City Chiefs offensive line, and now seen as a hero in his hometown of Montreal, he looks forward to spearhead the Chiefs to another deep playoff run in the 2021 season.