64 days until Penn State football starts again means it’s time to feature No. 64, everyone’s favorite mathematician and offensive lineman, John Urschel.
As a defensive tackle in high school, recording 77 tackles as a senior, Urschel was recruited for the 2009 Nittany Lions class. At Penn State, Urschel moved to right guard, seeing little playing time as a redshirt freshman in 2009 and sophomore in 2010. But as a junior in 2011, playing in every game, he helped Penn State lead the conference in fewest sacks allowed with 14.
For Urschel’s senior season, at the helm of the offensive line, he helped Penn State lead the Big Ten in total offense in conference games. He also helped lead the team through one of its toughest times and will always be remembered as one of the players who stayed to make a difference.
By 2012 and 2013, Urschel had cemented himself as one of the best offensive linemen in the conference. By the time he left Penn State in May 2013, he’d earned a degree in mathematics, and master’s while maintaining a 4.0 GPA while being a true student athlete. He’d also taught several mathematics classes, had several academic papers published, earned All-Big Ten Academic honors each year and was named Penn State’s first recipient of the William V. Campbell Trophy, presented to the nation’s top football scholar athlete.
A fifth round pick in the 2014 NFL draft for the Baltimore Ravens, Urschel played in 11 games for the Ravens in 2014 and 16 games in 2015. He began work on a PhD in mathematics at MIT while still playing professional football, maintaining a 4.0 while working full-time. His graduate studies were a key factor in his decision to retire from the NFL in 2017, citing that he left football for the love of math (not just the fear of concussions).
He’s currently attending MIT, pursuing his PhD in Applied Mathematics, planning either post-doctoral work or professorships after he’s done.