20 for 2020: Number 14—Laurent Duvernay-Tardif and Connection

Every December, I anticipate a special delivery into my mailbox. It's not a Christmas card or package, a holiday bonus or treat. It's an issue of what is now a monthly publication; it's Sports Illustrated's Sportsperson of the Year. When I saw LeBron James gracing the cover for the third time, I wasn't entirely surprised but I wasn't excited either. That is, until I realized that he was one of five honorees.

The 2020 Sportspersons of the Year are Activist Athletes—Champions for Life. Champions for Others. In addition to King James, Patrick Mahomes, Naomi Osaka, Breanna Stewart and Laurent Duvernay-Tardif have been recognized "not only for a championship performance this year, but also for turning their athlete fame into a platform for social activism." Great call, SI! And though it would seem plausible that Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, MD is #14 on my 20 for 2020 because he is the only current player in the NFL who also has a medical degree, what I find equally remarkable is the connection he shares with his Coach, Andy Reid.

Duvernay-Tardif is an offensive lineman for the Kansas City Chiefs. He made headlines when he became the first NFL player to opt out of the 2020-2021 season so that he could "continue his efforts on the frontline against COVID-19." He hasn't played a single snap this season and hasn't seen the field since the Chiefs victory in Super Bowl LIV on Feb. 2, 2020.

I can only encourage you to read the piece written by Jenny Thompson, an eight-time Olympic gold medalist turned doctor that reveals why he "traded in his uniform and cleats for medical scrubs." I invite you to listen for yourself to the ESPN Daily podcast, which aired on Christmas Eve. That really was a holiday treat. I am including a full description of it here.

Time and again, I have been reminded during these difficult days that so many people do not live ordinary lives. In the choices and the work of this French-Canadian right guard, I find a man who is far from ordinary, Duvernay-Tardif is extraordinary.

His coach Andy Reid feels the same way. At a press conference at the beginning of the 2020-2021 season he said

I'm a huge Larry Duvernay-Tardif fan so I understand the dedication to be a doctor. We are all blessed to have doctors in our lives. They're givers, they're not takers. They are givers. Larry has that quality. I just think it's tremendous dedication to his profession, what his future is going to be and mainly to the people he gets to help.

Coach Reid spoke of his player with deeper appreciation for doctors than most might think. Believe it or not, his mother is also a doctor AND she attended the very same medical school as his athlete. When I heard this "fun fact," I paused. I thought to myself Are you kidding me?" Big Red's mom went to McGill University in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, too?! Unreal.

One thing that feeds my soul is connection. I delight in discovering that I share common experiences with friends or family. I love finding out from others that we know the same people, have visited the same cities or shore, or been to similar spaces and places. And, when I hear that others have a connection—like the one between Coach Reid and "Larry"—I can't help but smile.

My niece Grace taught me the hand gesture for connection. This small sign only deepened my appreciation for her and the many ways humanity shares the same.

It probably didn't take Coach Reid's mother and Duvernay-Tardif's common experience of a medical degree from McGill University to build a connection between two talented, hard working and generous men. But it certainly didn't hurt either. When we become aware of the connections we share with others, the world just isn't that big of a place. We can all lend a hand or in the case of Duvernay-Tardif who stands 6'5" and weights 322 lbs, a pretty big one.

Congratulations on SOTY and Godspeed in your efforts on the other gridiron!

Photo Credits
with Mahomes
Coach Reid
Connection
MD

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