KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Finding inspiration on career goals away from the football field came easy for Garrick Mayweather.
While growing up in Baton Rouge, La., the Chiefs rookie offensive lineman was fully aware his mother, Suguna, has numerous relatives on her side of the family with successful medical careers.
From surgeons to nurses, the list includes a grandfather who worked at the prestigious John Hopkins Hospital and a grandmother’s eldest brother, Dr. Chandran Krishnan, who served as the personal physician for the sultan of Malaysia.
Mayweather said he also grew up idolizing Dr. Ben Carson, then a renowned neurosurgeon before his retirement.
Given the role models, Mayweather’s desire to enter the medical field proved natural and contributed to becoming a pre-med major at Fordham.
“It really kind of just runs in the family,” said Mayweather, who also holds a minor in business administration. “It’s one of those things I grew up around and I grew up seeing people being successful in the profession. I just wanted to help.”
It would be easy to believe his family encouraged him to pursue a medical career, but that scenario is far from the case.
While Mayweather admits his parents stayed on him “very hard” to maintain grades in school, he never felt pressured to become a doctor.
Instead, the 21-year-old offensive lineman’s personal calling came at an early age.
“From about second grade until about sixth grade, every year I was dressed up as a surgeon for Halloween,” he said with a hearty chuckle. “It was just one of those things I kind of gravitated towards.”
Mayweather also knows what area of medicine he hopes to practice.
“Originally, I wanted to go into neurosurgery, but since have changed my mind,” he said. “I want to go into orthopedics.”
An opportunity to receive an introduction to the specific field presented itself during his high school years.
Mayweather’s mother reached out to a former high school classmate, Dr. Craig Greene, and asked if her son could shadow the orthopedic surgeon at his clinic in Baton Rouge.
Greene recalled the period with fondness, pointing out how Mayweather treated staff members and patients with respect. The surgeon was even more impressed with Mayweather’s initiative and desire to learn.
“What still sticks out to me is if I did something once or twice and he saw that, he immediately jumped in and asked if he could help,” Greene said in a telephone interview. “I have college students that don’t do that.”
Studying medicine is just one of Mayweather’s passions, of course.
The 6-2, 319-pound offensive lineman excelled on the football field at Fordham, where he started every game at left guard from 2013-15 and earned All-America and All-Patriot League honors.
Kansas City signed Mayweather as an undrafted rookie free agent, effectively putting his dream of becoming a doctor on hold.
But the delay came without second guessing.
“When you have an opportunity such as this in the NFL to continue playing a game you love,” Mayweather said, “I don’t think there are any regrets when you’re diving head first.”
The Chiefs discovered Mayweather’s desire to enter the medical field during the predraft process and offered guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif as an example of fulfilling that goal while playing football.
“The scouts that came, as soon as they figured out I was pre-med and wanted to go to medical school, ‘Oh, we got a guy from Canada, plays offensive line, he’s going to be a doctor,’” Mayweather said. “I did know beforehand and I thought it was awesome.”
Duvernay-Tardif is on track to complete his medical degree at McGill University during the 2017 offseason.
And given Mayweather’s and Duvernay-Tardif’s mutual attraction to the practice of medicine, it didn’t take long for the two aspiring physicians to bond.
“We talk about it quite a bit,” Duvernay-Tardif said. “I think Garrick being interested in the same field that I’m interested in, of course, we get to connect on a certain topic.
“Obviously, he’s a pretty smart kid and it’s good to talk with him about the differences in the U.S. system and the Canadian system. It’s fun to have another cerebral, smart kid in the room.”
Mayweather agreed, adding the opportunity to pick Duvernay-Tardif’s brain on medicine and football has proven invaluable.
“I’m definitely trying to get all I can from him because he’s really doing two things that I really want to do,” Mayweather said. “He established himself a place on the offensive line in the NFL and he’s working towards his medical degree.”
The decision to temporarily step back from pursuing medical studies arguably carries a risk of losing motivation.
Mayweather, however, isn’t overly concerned the detour will affect his future.
“The only thing I’ve been hearing from people is taking the break makes it harder to go back to school,” he said. “But I believe, personally, I’m inherently motivated and I can really buckle down when I need to.”
Choosing to become an athlete means a player often possesses a high level of discipline.
And Mayweather believes he can rely on college experiences of balancing athletics with studies to not lose sight of the big picture.
“I think that the athletic side of that really speaks to being on a schedule, pushing yourself, competing,” he said. “In college, whether they say it or not, you’re competing. I really think athletics helped with that.”
He certainly has a well-grounded support system in place to ensure he stays the course.
In addition to viewing his family and Duvernay-Tardif as motivational figures, Mayweather can look to Dr. Craig Greene on how to juggle football with a view to attend medical school.
“He’s a former LSU football player,” Mayweather said. “So, having that mentor and seeing how he disciplines himself, picking his brain on how he got through medical school and what it really takes.”
Greene doesn’t believe Mayweather will experience issues.
“I think Garrick is strong,” Greene said. “He didn’t have to study hard as an athlete and he didn’t have to play sports and do his studying, but he chose to do both and do both very well. I think that will go a long way – that discipline will go a long way – as he progresses through his medical career.”
Meanwhile, playing professional football is a dream for many athletes, such as Mayweather.
But, realistically, the sport won’t offer a long-term career, a fact not lost on Mayweather as he tries to make the Chiefs’ roster.
“What I really admire about him is that he’s thinking way beyond that,” Greene said. “The average career for an NFL player is between three and four years, he knows that this is not the end.
“I think the fact that it’s still on his radar and I think he’d make a fantastic doctor, just given how smart he is and the interactions he has with patients. For as long as I can be his mentor, I look forward to doing that.”
Duvernay-Tardif also obviously understands what Mayweather is experiencing and took a moment to offer words of wisdom to his rookie teammate.
“You have to keep in mind that this isn’t going to last forever,” Duvernay-Tardif said. “You need to set up your chess board; you need to set up your plans that you’ll have something to do afterwards.
“And for me, that is medical school and I don’t want to lose my focus, so I would tell him try to remember what your goals were before you got in the NFL. You keep yourself in a position to realize those goals after your career.”
The search for medical school began in earnest during Mayweather’s junior year of college and his choices are narrowed down to two institutions.
“I think Maryland is probably at the top of my list and we’ll see as far as acceptance,” he said with a laugh. “I think that’s very high on my list and Tulane is right around the corner from me in Louisiana. Those are two of the schools I’ve been looking at the most.”
School obviously has to wait because Mayweather’s current profession makes him a football player.
Since signing a contract in early May, he participated in the Chiefs’ three-day rookie minicamp, 10 days of organized team activities (OTAs), the three-day mandatory minicamp and is set to report for training camp on July 26.
Mayweather’s attention falls on ensuring he is ready mentally and physically because he understands the Chiefs signed him to compete for a roster spot.
“We’re kind of in that football mode,” he said. “I’m a rookie and I’m trying to learn the ropes on that end.”
But while his focus is on adapting to the playbook and succeeding in football, that doesn’t mean Mayweather’s future plans are off the radar.
“I still actively read medical journal articles,” Mayweather said. “My grandfather makes sure I have at least three or four in my inbox at all times. I’m very active in the medical community as far as staying in that realm of thought.”
Considering his love of football and desire to go into orthopedics, could he see himself back with the Chiefs as a team doctor when his playing career eventually comes to an end?
“Hopefully,” Mayweather said with a wide smile.
Herbie Teope is the lead Chiefs beat writer for The Topeka Capital-Journal and ChiefsDigest.com. Use the contact page to reach him or find him on Twitter: @HerbieTeope.