MONTREAL — The enormity of winning the Super Bowl only sunk in for Laurent Duvernay-Tardif when he saw his mother crying on the field.
The Chiefs guard became the first Quebec-born player and ninth Canadian to hoist the Lombardi Trophy after Kansas City rallied past the San Francisco 49ers 31-20 in the Super Bowl last week.
Duvernay-Tardif, who is also the only active NFL player with a degree in medicine, says it was the perfect reward for years of intense effort.
"Confetti rained down on the field and two seconds later, a stage appeared. Then the Lombardi Trophy appeared," said Duvernay-Tardif on Sunday. "My girlfriend and parents were on the field. I had never seen my mother cry tears of joy like that.
"In an instant, you realize that everything you've been working for was for this moment. To live that with my family was so special."
The last few years have been a whirlwind for Duvernay-Tardif, who has come a long way from the young McGill University medical student who impressed NFL and CFL scouts at his private pro day back in 2014.
The Chiefs selected the six-foot-five, 321-pound right guard in the sixth round (200th overall) at that year's draft.
The native of Mont-Saint-Hilaire, Que., made his NFL debut in 2015, signed a $42-million contract extension in 2017, suffered a season-ending knee injury that same year, and lost to the New England Patriots in heartbreaking fashion in the AFC Championship game in 2018.
Meanwhile, he spent his off-seasons in Montreal pursuing his medical degree — which he received two years ago — under very strict time constraints. His studies would have been invalidated if he could not complete medical school within eight years.
After the Chiefs overcame deficits in all three of their playoff victories this year, including being down 10 points in the fourth quarter of the NFL championship game, Duvernay-Tardif is a Super Bowl champion. The 28-year-old lineman even sprained his calf in the Super Bowl but played through the pain.
"Sasha (his best friend and agent) and my girlfriend Florence stayed in Kansas City two days after the parade and we were talking over dinner about that crazy train that hit us over the past six years, that crazy journey.
"It's crazy because things go so fast in the NFL. The average career is three years, so when you hit your third year, you're a vet and you have to act like it," said Duvernay-Tardif. "The last two years, I really feel like I belong there and I'm a piece of the offence.
"With medical school on top of that, it's been a busy six years."
After five days of festivities in Kansas City — including a championship parade and rubbing elbows with Hollywood celebrities like Paul Rudd — Duvernay-Tardif brought the party home for the weekend.
Around 2,000 fans, many wearing Chiefs gear, gathered at Montreal's Parc Jean-Drapeau on Sunday to celebrate their hometown hero.
"I landed in Montreal yesterday, and I feel I'm really going to feel that wave over the next few days and weeks. All the fans from Quebec, from Montreal and Canada, everything is so positive," said Duvernay-Tardif.
"Last night I went to grab food across the street from where I live. And there were probably four or five cars that rolled down the window and screamed: 'LDT, this is awesome!' I was dressed up because it was minus-20 outside. How did they recognize me? I'm sure I'm going to have a couple more of those reactions."
After taking a two-week vacation with his girlfriend, Duvernay-Tardif is considering shadowing a few doctor friends in hospital emergency rooms. But he wants to retire from professional football before doing his full residency program.
He also wants to continue his philanthropic endeavours through the Laurent Duvernay-Tardif Foundation. Then it's right back to training camp in Kansas City.
But first, he plans to celebrate his Super Bowl victory for the weeks to come, including a stop at the White House.
"I've never been to Washington. I want to go down there and see what it's like," said Duvernay-Tardif. "It's part of the thing. If the team's going, I'm going. I think it's going to be interesting.
"It has nothing to do with my personal political opinions. I want to live that experience."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 9, 2020.
Kelsey Patterson, The Canadian Press