Laurent Duvernay-Tardif isn't letting money change him.
The 26-year-old native of Mont-Saint-Hilaire, Que., signed a five-year, $42.25-million contract extension with the NFL's Kansas City Chiefs this off-season that included a $10-million signing bonus and over $20-million guaranteed. But roughly three months later, the future doctor got a grim reminder of just how harsh a business pro football is.
"(Former Chiefs receiver) Jeremy Maclin got cut three weeks ago and he was one of the highest-paid players on the team," Duvernay-Tardif said this week in Toronto, where he spoke at a conference for the Quebec Federation of Egg Producers, a new sponsor to his charitable foundation. "It's going to give me stability for a year or two because of the way contracts are structured, but after that you must prove you're worth the money they're investing in you."
Duvernay-Tardif's extension makes him one of the NFL's highest-paid guards and should provide the former McGill star with financial security for the rest of his life. But Duvernay-Tardif isn't lavishing himself with expensive gifts.
He flew economy from Montreal to Kansas City to sign the extension, then returned home the next day to resume his medical school studies. Duvernay-Tardif is scheduled to complete his degree next year.
"It's kind of awesome but I try not to pinch myself too much because I want to stay the same guy," Duvernay-Tardif said. "People talk to me about the contract and how nice it is but I think the thing I'm going to be most proud of is to walk on the field next year with M.D. on the back of my jersey.
"I'm fortunate I still have many of the same friends I had before all this happened and every time I start having a bit of a big ego they kind of tell me, 'What are you doing, Laurent? We want you to hang out, we want you to be in dirty clothes and go play spike ball in the park. We don't want you flashing in a club.' I try to eliminate distractions and put all the money away."
Duvernay-Tardif is scheduled to earn a $690,000 base salary to complete the four-year, $2.35-million deal he signed after being selected in the sixth round of the 2014 NFL draft out of McGill. But Duvernay-Tardif chooses to live modestly.
"I put $50,000 in an U.S. account and $35,000 in a Canadian account," he said. "That's been my average the past three years.
"Maybe it's medical school that did that to me but I really try to keep things tight in the sense that I want to know where my money is going."
It's been a meteoric rise for Duvernay-Tardif, a converted defensive lineman who has started 27-of-30 games the last two seasons. He cracked the Chiefs' 53-man roster as a rookie then became a starter in 2015, playing 13 games.
He made a career-best 14 starts last year, playing in every game he dressed. Duvernay-Tardif said his new deal dramatically increases the weight of expectation on his shoulders.
"I need to aim for perfection, stability and consistency so the mindset is different," he said. "I feel that pressure but I enjoy it and at the same time."
It's certainly been a hectic off-season for Duvernay-Tardif, who has worked in geriatrics, emergency-room trauma and most recently learning anaesthesia at a Montreal hospital. He also finds time to work out while returning to Kansas City for voluntary spring practice as well as mandatory mini-camp.
Duvernay-Tardif will conclude his off-season studies July 25, two days before having to report to training camp. He said he's able to effectively juggle med school with football because the two are similar.
"Football is more than just a game, it's learning how to deal with pressure, different situations and how to work with teammates who come from all over the United States and have different socio-economic backgrounds," he said. "As a future physician, to be able to live with and understand that reality is going to make me better."
When Duvernay-Tardif is finished playing football, he wants to be an emergency-room physician.
"I did two months of emergency two years ago and two months this off-season," he said. "I prefer the flow, the adrenalin rush, the fact you never know what's going to come through that door.
"I like that challenge. Sometimes you just have to figure it out and know your physiology, know your anatomy to make split-second decisions that can end up saving the life of a patient."
And accept that sometimes patients die regardless of the treatment they receive.
"I only saw one (patient die) in two months and it's hard because you focus only on the patient," he said. "Then at the moment when team decides its over and we stop with resuscitation, you think, 'Oh my God, this patient's family is next door and doesn't know anything.' "It's hard to do that and then transition to see another patient who has a broken nose. I think that's where you need empathy because if you develop sympathy for the patient and get emotionally involved, then it's hard to transition, to move on."
Again, it's a lesson Duvernay-Tardif says football has helped teach him.
"Every week there's going to be somebody who's going to lose and the most important thing is to rebound quickly, turn the page and learn from your mistakes," he said. "I think emergency has a little bit of that . . . you need to be able to move on and offer the same kind of empathy and focus on the next patient."
That approach helped Duvernay-Tardif move on from the Chiefs' heart-breaking 18-16 AFC divisional playoff loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers in last year's NFL playoffs.
"We lost by two points in a tough game the other team won without scoring a touchdown, so of course, you think about that," he said. "But at the same time when you're done at the hospital and working out at night, that's what you think about, that's what motivates you.
"In the beginning, it was like the playoffs are just another game but they're not. It's tough, it's cold outside, people are tired, it's a grind. Learning how to win in the playoffs is something that as a young team we have to learn and last year we had a new experience. We have to learn how to manage those elements."