In honor of Sunday’s game, Wapiti recognizes NFL players who became doctors. When it comes to post-football careers for players, we usually think of them retiring to the broadcast booth or returning to the sidelines to coach. However, as there are a limited number of opportunities in broadcasting and coaching, the vast majority will pursue other options. For a select few, that means medicine.
In the history of the NFL, only a handful of players have gone on to become physicians. But it’s worth recognizing their achievements. Here are 6 NFL players who went on to become physicians.
College players leaving school for the NFL is nothing new. Myron Rolle broke new ground when he exited Florida State early to attend Oxford University. After completing his Master’s degree in medical anthropology, he returned to the U.S. to play for two seasons in the NFL. Rolle was selected as a safety in the 2010 draft and had stints in Tennessee and Pittsburgh.
Laurent Duvernay-Tardiff made history as the only physician to be an active NFL player. On the field, the native Canadian protected Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes. In 2020, Duvernay-Tardiff left football behind to help combat a global pandemic. He returned to the gridiron in 2022 and landed a spot with the New York Jets.
In his brief NFL career, Nate Hughes played with 4 teams, including the Chiefs, the Browns, and Jaguars. After his career as a wide receiver ended, Hughes focused on medical school. In 2008, he graduated from the University of Mississippi Medical Center. Hughes is currently completing his anesthesiology residency at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.
San Francisco 49ers Coach Dan Reeves wasn’t thrilled when he found out his outside linebacker Milt McColl was attending Stanford University School of Medicine during the offseason. That didn’t stop the 6’6, 248 lb. undrafted free agent from pursuing his dream. McColl was following in the footsteps of his father, Bill McCoil, who became an orthopedic surgeon after his playing days with the Chicago Bears were over.
Dan Fortmann is unique among NFL players who became doctors as he is the only one to enter the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a player. Selected in the 9th round of the league’s inaugural draft in 1936, he was considered undersized for an offensive lineman. Fortmann would earn distinction as one of his era’s top guards. He would graduate from the University of Chicago Medical School in 1940 and play for 3 more seasons before hanging up his cleats.
In 1999,Montreal native Jean-Philippe Darche was drafted by the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League. A year later, Darche began his career in the NFL as a long snapper with the Seattle Seahawks. After finishing up his playing days with the Kansas City Chiefs in 2009, Darche earned his degree in sports medicine at the University of Kansas. He now serves as a team doctor for the Chiefs.
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