The coincidences aren’t lost on Jean-Philippe Darche.
The 41-year-old St.-Laurent, Que., native is a McGill grad completing his family practice residency in Kansas City after finishing his pro football career there. It’s also where Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, a fellow Redmen and future doctor from Mont-Saint-Hilaire, Que., is playing right guard with the Chiefs.
“We even went to the same CEGEP (Quebec junior college),” Darche said via telephone. “I hadn’t really heard of him until he started at McGill, I kind of followed him (online) and thought, ‘Well, this guy in med school seems to be pretty good.’
“After we met, I followed his career and we kept in touch and then he was drafted by the Chiefs (sixth round in ’14) and I thought, ‘What are the odds of that happening?’ He comes to my house regularly and my kids love him. He’s like their cool uncle Larry (Duvernay-Tardif’s nickname with his Kansas City teammates).”
Duvernay-Tardif is balancing medicine with football. The six-foot-five, 321-pound lineman will return to Montreal this month to resume his medical school commitments and hopes to complete his degree in 2018.
“The advice I’ve given him is stretch it (med school) out as long as you can because once you graduate the clock starts ticking on how long it’s going to take before you do your residency,” Darche said. “I know he’s thinking, ‘Man, I want to graduate and get it over with,’ but take your time, you’re going to be fine.
“When I played there was only a couple of months each year where there were no off-season workouts whereas now Laurent has about four months so he’s able to keep plugging away towards that goal of graduating and not having to restart. That’s a big plus.”
Darche comes from an athletic family as younger brother, Mathieu, played in the NHL with Columbus, San Jose, Tampa and Montreal. J.P. Darche put medical school on hold until retiring after the ’08 season, his second and final one with Kansas City.
Darche began his pro career in ’99 with the CFL’s Toronto Argonauts before heading to the NFL with Seattle in 2000. He played in the Seahawks’ 21-10 loss to Pittsburgh in Super Bowl XL before joining the Chiefs in ’07.
Darche admits Kansas City wasn’t his first choice in free agency but he and his family quickly settled in there. That made for an easy decision to attend the University of Kansas school of medicine after football.
“We really fell in love with (Kansas City),” said Darche, who received his medical degree in 2014. “We still have a place in Montreal that we go to a couple times a year, that’s always going to be home for us . . . but we’re very very happy here.”
Nine NFL seasons provided Darche with the financial freedom to pursue whatever post-football career he desired. But he never doubted a return to medicine.
“I knew the whole time,” Darche said. “As soon as I got back into studying, I knew that’s what I wanted to do.
“Had I gone a few more years, I wonder if I would’ve still made the same decision? The beauty is I enjoy it now more than the first time around because I’m not doing it because I have to.”
Even after some initial doubt.
“When I first started studying (for entrance exam) I gave myself two months,” he said. “But the first couple of weeks I thought, ‘Man, I don’t know if I can really do this?’
“I couldn’t focus and it just wasn’t clicking but fortunately after a few weeks it did. I could feel it was coming back.”
Darche said returning to school in his 30s gave him a maturity to accept and overcome any challenges he faced.
“When you’re older you’ve had other experiences so you don’t sweat the small stuff,” he said. “You have a different perspective and realize you’re really doing it for truly the right reason.”
As an NFL long-snapper Darche played in relative anonymity, which is good because it meant he did his job effectively. Few of his patients realize their doctor is a former NFL player.
“Some bring it up and we’ll talk about it for a few seconds,” Darche said. “But as a physician the first thing you have to know is it’s never about you, it’s about the patient.”
Darche is scheduled to complete his residency this summer and plans to do a sports medicine-only fellowship.
“That will mean working with the Chiefs, Kansas City Royals and high school teams,” he said. “I enjoy that, especially working with high school kids.
“That’s going to be a lot of fun to make that part of your practice.”
Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press