Towering McGill offensive lineman Duvernay-Tardif looking forward to NFL draft
Tuesday, May 06, 2014 03:00 pm
Laurent Duvernay-Tardif has become a master of time management.
This off-season, the McGill Redmen offensive tackle/medical student has deftly juggled his schedule to accommodate working 60-plus hours a week in the pediatric emergency ward at Montreal Children's Hospital, working out, playing football in Florida and travelling across the U.S. for individual sessions and visits with NFL officials. On Friday and Saturday, he'll spend some well-earned down time watching television to learn where his football future lies.
The six-foot-five, 314-pound Duvernay-Tardif is projected to go anywhere between the third and seventh rounds of the NFL draft, which begins Thursday night with the first round. The second and third rounds will go Friday, with the final four being held Saturday.
"I've enjoyed every moment of this process," the articulate Duvernay-Tardif said in a telephone interview. "It's been really intense but at the same time it's amazing to think I might play in the NFL, which is a dream.
"This process isn't one every 23-year-old gets to go through and I believe the interviews alone are something that will help me in my life. I've really enjoyed it."
Duvernay-Tardif, a converted defensive lineman, has been firmly entrenched atop the CFL central scouting bureau's list of the top-15 prospects for the May 13 draft. But the native of St. Hilaire, Que., has seen his NFL stock skyrocket following his pro day in Montreal in March.
Auditioning for nine NFL teams — Oakland, Kansas City, Philadelphia, Arizona, New York Jets, Green Bay, Chicago, San Francisco and Buffalo — and four CFL clubs — Montreal, Calgary, Toronto and Ottawa — the two-time All-Canadian was impressive in posting a 40-yard dash time of 4.94 seconds, a 31.5-inch vertical and 34 reps in the bench press. Duvernay-Tardif wasn't invited to the NFL combine but those numbers were as good as any offensive lineman who tested in Indianapolis.
NFL draft guru Mike Mayock, a former Toronto Argonauts defensive back, says Duvernay-Tardif — who was featured in Sports Illustrated in March — has definitely impressed.
"I think Duvernay-Tardif has gone from an afterthought to a solid fourth- or fifth-round developmental project with starter skills," he said.
Gil Brandt, the former Dallas Cowboys player-personnel director, also sees the towering McGill star being drafted.
"I would imagine that a team will take a chance on him around the sixth or seventh round and hope to turn him into an NFL player," Brandt wrote in his blog on the NFL's website.
However, Duvernay-Tardif isn't the only Canadian garnering NFL interest.
Also highly regarded is Brent Urban, a six-foot-seven, 298-pound defensive tackle from the University of Virginia who was a 2013 second-round pick of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. Urban, of Mississauga, Ont., was a two-year starter for the Cavaliers who was invited to this year's Senior Bowl but missed the game due to injury.
Injuries are the biggest knock against Urban but teams definitely like his ability in a 3-4 defensive scheme (three down linemen, four linebackers).
"The Urban kid is interesting," Mayock said. "I wanted to see more of him at the Senior Bowl and he got hurt.
''The five technique is probably his best position, a 3-4 defensive end in a 3-4 defence. I think he can go in the third round. I think he's a big, strong kid. He's stout. In addition to playing that five technique, he could probably move inside also. So I like him and I think there's some significant upside there."
Last year, Rice tight end Luke Willson, a native of LaSalle, Que., was the lone Canadian drafted, going in the fifth round to the Super Bowl-champion Seattle Seahawks.
In 2012, a record four players from Canada were selected.
Three Canadians — defensive linemen Tyrone Crawford of Windsor, Ont. (third round, Dallas) and Christo Bilukidi of Ottawa (sixth round, Oakland) and centre Philip Blake of Toronto (fourth round, Denver) — were drafted. So was Akiem Hicks, an American defensive lineman who played at the University of Regina (third round, New Orleans).
Other Canucks who could hear their name called include Winnipeg natives T.J. Jones, a receiver at Notre Dame, and John Urschel, an offensive lineman at Penn State, as well as Oregon linebacker Bo Lokombo, of Abbotsford, B.C.
Duvernay-Tardif, Canadian university football's top lineman in '13, performed at his pro day weighing 298 pounds, some 17 pounds under his playing weight at the East-West Shrine Bowl in January. But that was by design so Duvernay-Tardif could be quicker and more explosive in testing.
"There are many NFL teams that like bigger offensive lineman and others like the Philadelphia Eagles who like offensive linemen to be a bit smaller and quicker," he said. "I think I was able to show I could be both kinds of player."
Duvernay-Tardif said he visited with nine NFL teams following his pro day, with many curious how he can juggle football with his heavy academic load. During the season at McGill, Duvernay-Tardif had a limited practice schedule because of his studies, meaning he had to be imaginative in order to keep up.
"I think most teams believe being involved in medicine is a plus but they want to know why and how you're able to manage that," he said. "I had to tell teams I was watching a lot of film by myself and having Facetime meetings with my coach to prepare for games because I wasn't able to attend every practice.
"But when it's time to go to the board and draw concepts and schemes and explain them, I can do that because I think medicine has helped me become a cerebral guy and able to process information."
However, not all the questions Duvernay-Tardif faced dealt with football.
"All the questions about drugs and arrests are kind of (out there) for me but I guess it's a reality of professional football," he said. "But every time they did, I was like, 'What? For sure, no, I am not doing coke (cocaine) or anything like that.'"
For prospects like Duvernay-Tardif, the draft culminates months of uncertainty and seemingly endless testing and intense questioning. However, Duvernay-Tardif won't be content just hearing his name called and signing an NFL contract.
"The draft is important and will be a great moment," he said. "But at the same time if I go to a team and get cut during training camp I wouldn't have done anything.
"My main focus will be going to training camp and working hard to make the team."