J.P. Darche is returning to the Super Bowl.
The former long-snapper will head to Miami with the Kansas City Chiefs as one of their team doctors. The 44-year-old native of St-Laurent, Que., made his first Super Bowl appearance in 2006 as a pleayer with the Seattle Seahawks, who dropped a 21-10 decision to the Pittsburgh Steelers in Detroit.
"It's very exciting (but) nowhere near what it was as a player," Darche said. "When you're playing it's one thing but when you're doing what I'm doing now, whatever tiny part of it that I help with, I guess you feel you're still part of it in some ways.
"I'm happy for the city, the players I know, the scouts. It's a really good organization that takes good care of its people. It's fun to see."
Kansas City advanced to the Super Bowl for the first time in 50 years with a 35-24 AFC title win over the Tennessee Titans on Sunday. On Feb. 2 in Miami, the Chiefs will face the San Francisco 49ers, who dispatched the Green Bay Packers 37-20 in the NFC final.
The six-foot, 242-pound Darche was a standout linebacker over five seasons at McGill University in Montreal, serving as team captain his final two while attending medical school. After being selected in the third round of the '99 CFL draft by Toronto, Darche spent one season with the Argonauts before joining the Seahawks.
Darche played six seasons in Seattle before spending his final two NFL campaigns with Kansas City (2007-08). He remains McGill's all-time leader in tackles (272) and completed his medical degree after retiring as a player.
Darche isn't the only Canadian doctor with the Chiefs.
Offensive lineman Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, a native of Mont-Saint-Hilaire, Que., graduated from McGill's medical school in 2018.
Ryan Hunter, a sophomore offensive lineman from North Bay, Ont., also is on Kansas City's active roster.
Duvernay-Tardif and Darche have become close friends, but the latter is not about to offer players any Super Bowl advice.
"I think they can look more toward other (current) players who've been there," he said. "I think the only thing that's helpful is to have someone tell you it (Super Bowl week) is a very different week.
"You'll have many distractions and the game will kind of be an awkward feeling because it's the biggest of the year yet it's the least crowd noise you'll hear. At the end of the day, it's just preparing for another game."
What Darche remembers most about his Super Bowl experience is how difficult it was to get over the loss.
"It's a hard pill to swallow, I'm not going to lie," he said. "I remember waking up the next morning feeling like you wanted to throw up and that takes a while to get over.
"In the pros, you lose a game and it hurts. You want to win for you, your team but usually if you lose one you're upset for a little bit then you move on. You're a professional, you're paid to win the next one and focus on what you have to do. But the Super Bowl almost takes you back to when you're in high school or college and truly playing for just you and your buddies. You're playing purely for the love of the game and I think it's the game that takes you back to that feeling."
Darche said being a former Chiefs player has helped him ease into his new role with the club.
"When guys are dealing with something or when something happens, I get it," he said. "I understand what their worries, hopes and expectations are.
"At certain times of the season, I understand what kind of grind it can be. Whatever they go through, I've been there and seen it."
Darche earned an NFC championship ring with Seattle, although it's been some time since he's actually worn it. Should he receive a Super Bowl ring with Kansas City, Darche isn't sure if he'll wear it.
"Well, if I were get a ring, we'll see," he said.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 24, 2020.
Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press