BALTIMORE — John Urschel was selected by the Ravens in the fifth round (175th overall) at the 2014 NFL Draft. Urschel isn’t the typical football player. He is also known as a mathematician thanks to his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Mathematics. He has published a number of articles in major mathematical journals. Urschel recently took the time to write an entrée for the “Player’s Tribune,” an online outlet for professional athletes to write about the game that they play.
Urschel’s article was inspired by the sudden retirement of former San Francisco 49ers linebacker Chris Borland who played for the University of Wisconsin before entering the NFL. Urschel played for Penn State, which is in the Big Ten.
Borland and Urschel had their share of match ups while in college. They also played against each other last season when the 49ers and Ravens met in a preseason game followed by a week of training camp together in Owings Mills.
Urschel’s article talked about his love for football and how he plays the game solely for that reason. “I’m not playing for the money. I’m not playing for some social status associated with being an elite athlete. I play because I love the game. I love hitting people. There’s a rush you get when you go out on the field, lay everything on the line and physically dominate the player across from you. I’ve fallen in love with football and the physical contact associated with it.”
Urschel says that he is addicted to the feeling that he gets when he hits someone. It’s a feeling that he says can’t be found anywhere else. The addiction to contact that Urschel says he has is fed by training in kick boxing and wrestling during the off-season. Going without contact is something that makes Urschel says makes him “unpleasant to be around.”
A career in football will surely yield much more money than any other career that Urschel could embark upon. Despite that, Urschel says that his mother tells him that he has played enough football and that “it is ok to call it quits.” Borland cited possible future brain damage. If that is the case, there is a lot at stake for Urschel.
There is a long list of accomplishments that Urschel achieved while at Penn State. He was recognized as a first-team Academic All-Big Ten in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013. Urschel earned his degree in math in three years and graduated with a master’s degree in math in one year. At the moment, he is working on a second master’s in math education. He also taught trigonometry and analytic geometry during the 2013 spring semester and taught integral vector calculus during the 2013 fall semester on the University Park campus.
The need to take part in physical contact is right in line with the Ravens. Baltimore couldn’t have been a better landing place for Urschel because of the physical style of play that the Ravens focus on. He got the opportunity to start in three games last year as he filled in at guard. Urschel will look to see more action during the upcoming season in the Ravens offensive scheme under new offensive coordinator Marc Trestman.
There is definitely a career in mathematics waiting for Urschel after football. That will have to wait because for the moment, he is taking part in his first love, which is football.