Math Whiz Urschel Putting More Than 2 and 2 Together

By Cook, Ron | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA), October 31, 2014 | Go to article overview

Math Whiz Urschel Putting More Than 2 and 2 Together


Cook, Ron, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)


We have focused so much on Aaron Hernandez, Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson and Greg Hardy. Let's switch things up this morning and talk about John Urschel. He's a rookie guard-center for the Baltimore Ravens, who will be at Heinz Field Sunday night. He might be the smartest man in sports. He's everything that's right about the NFL.

Last year at Penn State, Urschel won the National Football Foundation's Campbell Trophy, which goes to the nation's top student- athlete. Think Academic Heisman. He left Penn State with a master's degree in mathematics. "With math, it's about the beauty," Urschel has said. No, that's not something you hear often from an NFL player. Then again, Urschel isn't typical in any sense. His Twitter account is @MathMeetsFball. He described his Penn State years like this: "I did only two things all day, every day -- I studied math and I played football. I wouldn't say I was the epitome of a balanced, well-rounded person, but I loved every single day." Urschel hopes to get a doctorate's degree from a school such as Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "I would like to be a professor or a researcher," he said this week. "I could work for NASA or on Wall Street."

Right now, it's all about football for Urschel. He made the Ravens as a fifth-round draft choice, beating out another former Penn State lineman, A.Q. Shipley, for his roster spot. He was inactive for the first five games, then started against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Atlanta Falcons in place of injured left guard Kelechi Osemele. He said he played 12 snaps last week against the Cincinnati Bengals as the backup at left guard and right guard.

Pro Football Focus, which analyzes the play of every NFL player, gave Urschel high praise for his work in his two starts. The Ravens ran behind him 24 times for 130 yards, including 12 times for 86 yards against Tampa Bay when he often had to block All-Pro defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, who just signed a seven-year, $95.2 million contract extension. Urschel also allowed quarterback Joe Flacco to be hurried just once in the two games, prompting this from Ravens coach John Harbaugh: "He's getting what he's earned. He deserves it. He works really hard and he loves football. He studies the game. …

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