It didn’t take Canadian Laurent Duvernay-Tardif long to get into Super Bowl mode.
On Sunday, the offensive lineman and the Kansas City Chiefs advanced to the Super Bowl with a 35-24 AFC championship win over the visiting Tennessee Titans. That secured the franchise its first berth in the NFL title game in 50 years.
Duvernay-Tardif, from Mont-Saint-Hilaire, Que., will be playing for a championship for the first time as a football player on Feb. 2 against the San Francisco 49ers in Miami.
But that didn’t take away from his focus during all the on-field chaos and celebrations on Sunday.
“I just went back home, grabbed dinner with family and friends and went to bed,” Duvernay-Tardif, 28, said during a conference call Tuesday.
“I think that’s the way you have to approach it because the next day I was back in the gym getting ready for the week of practice that started [Tuesday].
“I celebrated the moment on the field, went back home grabbed a nice dinner and the next morning when I woke up I was already in a Super Bowl mindset,” he said.
From McGill to Kansas City
The Chiefs’ veteran right guard is a converted defensive lineman who played collegiately at McGill University in Montreal. The towering six-foot-five, 321-pound Canadian will become just the second player in school history to play in the Super Bowl.
Linebacker/long-snapper J.P. Darche, a Montreal native, was the first. The former Toronto Argonaut played for Seattle in its 21-10 Super Bowl loss to Pittsburgh in 2006 in Detroit.
Darche played nine pro seasons with the Argos (1999), Seahawks (2000-06) and Chiefs (2007-08).
Duvernay-Tardif and Darche will both make the trip to Miami with Kansas City. Darche, 44, is currently one of the Chiefs’ team doctors.
Ironically, Duvernay-Tardif graduated from McGill with his doctorate in medicine in May 2018. That made him the first active NFL player to hold a medical degree although he must still complete his residency.
After missing most of last season with a broken leg, Duvernay-Tardif will complete his sixth NFL campaign — all with Kansas City — playing in the Super Bowl. The Chiefs selected Duvernay-Tardif in the sixth round, No. 200 overall, in the 2014 NFL draft.
In March 2017, Duvernay-Tardif signed a five-year extension with the Chiefs. The deal was reportedly worth $41.25-million US, with $20 million guaranteed.
Kansas City’s Andy Reid is just the seventh NFL head coach to lead two teams to the Super Bowl. But Reid lost in his only other appearance, that being Feb. 6, 2006 when the New England Patriots edged the Philadelphia Eagles 24-21.
“Coach Reid is more than a coach, he’s also a mentor for me and the team,” said Duvernay-Tardif.
“The team he’s put together the last five years is really talented and I think we owe him to go all the way this year. Personally, he’s kind of the one who understood what I was trying to do with medical school and football and gave me the opportunity to combine both at the highest level. If it wasn’t for him, I don’t think I would’ve been able to do it so I’m really grateful.”
Chasing a second title
The Chiefs will chase a second Super Bowl title — they downed Minnesota 23-7 in Super Bowl IV — after mounting consecutive comebacks this year.
After spotting Houston a 24-0 advantage, Kansas City rallied for the 51-31 victory before reeling off 28 straight points against Tennessee to erase a 10-0 deficit.
“We’re going to have to address that . . . because the further you get along in the playoffs the better the teams are and you can’t really allow yourself to be behind,” he said.
“But I feel like no matter what happened those last two weeks were really good learning opportunities and as a team I think we all showed character because were able to stick together. If we’re able to fix it and have that kind of confidence going into the big game I think it will help us.”
Of course, having Patrick Mahomes at quarterback certainly helps. Duvernay-Tardif admits Chiefs players are routinely amazed by Mahomes’ play.
Kansas City had its way with a Titans defence that had allowed 13 points to New England and 12 versus Baltimore previously. But with Mahomes under centre, the Chiefs amassed 27 first downs and 404 yards of total offence.
Duvernay-Tardif said Mahomes gives the Chiefs a huge edge heading into the Super Bowl.
“I think Pat is the greatest quarterback right now playing in the league,” he said.
“Sometimes we look at the jumbotron and it’s, ‘Oh my God, how does he do that?’ It’s almost not human the amount of things he’s able to process at the same time.”
‘That gives me goosebumps’
Duvernay-Tardif admits being so close to a first-ever football championship can be a little nerve-wracking.
“I feel like after every season I’ve played football . . . you go to the playoffs and you always finish out the season losing,” he said.
“This is the only time so far in my career that I have an opportunity to finish a season winning and after that there’s nothing else, you’ve reached the top. That gives me goosebumps thinking about it.”
Especially when thoughts of a Super Bowl title were so very distant when Duvernay-Tardif was playing at McGill.
“For me throughout my whole career, it’s been kind of a one step at a time approach,” he said.
“It was only once I started being a consistent starter for the Kansas City Chiefs that I began having that vision of going all the way to the top and winning the Super Bowl.”