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      NFL champ honored for COVID-19 work

      By MURRAY GREIG | China Daily Global | Updated: 2020-12-14 09:23
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      When it comes to setting his priorities, Dr. Laurent Duvernay-Tardif really knows how to operate.

      In February, the 29-year-old Canadian offensive lineman won a Super Bowl championship with the Kansas City Chiefs. In the spring, he returned to McGill University in Montreal to complete the final credits of his medical degree before becoming the first NFL player to opt out of the current season-forfeiting a salary in excess of $10 million-to volunteer as a frontline worker in the fight against the coronavirus in his native province of Quebec.

      Last week, Duvernay-Tardif was one of five athletes recognized as "Sportsperson of the Year: The Activist Athlete" by Sports Illustrated magazine, joining teammate and Kansas City quarterback Patrick Mahomes, Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James, Breanna Stewart of the WNBA's Seattle Storm and women's US Open tennis champ Naomi Osaka.

      Apart from their achievements as athletes, James was honored for helping to drive record voter turnout in the US presidential election, Stewart for her staunch support of the Black Lives Matter movement, Mahomes for his work in the community and pushing the NFL on the issue of players' right to protest, and Osaka for being a strong voice in the fight against social injustice.

      "As athletes, we have the power to make a positive impact in our society," Duvernay-Tardif tweeted after the honor was announced. "To be recognized for my involvement off the field by one of the biggest sport awards means everything to me.

      "I dedicate this award to all the healthcare workers who have been making huge sacrifices in order to protect and care for others. Thank you. The work isn't over."

      Duvernay-Tardif graduated from McGill with a Doctor of Medicine and Master of Surgery degree in 2018, an education he put to use when the pandemic ravaged Quebec's long-term care system.

      In July, he informed the Chiefs that rather than playing football he would spend the fall studying nutrition, biostatistics and epidemiology at Harvard University before returning to Canada to volunteer at a long-term care facility.

      "Being at the frontline during this offseason has given me a different perspective on this pandemic and the stress it puts on individuals and our healthcare system," Duvernay-Tardif said at the time.

      "I cannot allow myself to potentially transmit the virus in our communities simply to play the sport that I love. If I am to take risks, I will do it caring for my patients."

      Two days after being honored by Sports Illustrated, the 6-foot-5,320-pound (1.96-meter, 145-kilogram) footballer was named co-winner of the Lou Marsh Trophy as Canada's athlete of the year, along with Bayern Munich soccer star Alphonso Davies.

      "I think that as a Canadian athlete winning this prize is by far the greatest sports homage I can receive. I'm truly honored," Duvernay-Tardif said at a virtual media conference.

      "In the context of the pandemic, to give such an award for sports accomplishments but also for sacrifices done outside the field, I think it's a beautiful combination."

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