One of the N.F.L.’s smartest players did the math and decided to retire after just three years in the league.
John Urschel, an offensive lineman for the Baltimore Ravens who received much publicity for his off-season pursuit of a doctorate in math at M.I.T., told the team on Thursday that he was hanging up his cleats at 26.
Urschel’s agent, Jim Ivler, said Urschel was overwhelmed with interview requests but would not be speaking to the news media. On Twitter, Urschel wrote that “there is no big story here” and that the decision to retire was not an easy one to make, but “it was the right one for me.”
He added that he planned to return to school full time in the fall, “to take courses that are only offered in the fall semester” and spend time with his fiancée, who is expecting their first child in December.
Urschel’s decision came two days after the release of a study in which all but one of 111 brains of former N.F.L. players showed signs of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative brain disease linked to repeated hits to the head.
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Ask John Urschel to define himself, and this is the sort of answer you’ll get: “John Urschel, pro football player, mathematician, professional mathlete.”
To put it mildly, Urschel is a rare commodity. He’s 6 feet 3 inches tall, a 308-pound offensive guard for the Baltimore Ravens and a man who once stated matter-of-factly that he loves “hitting people.” But he’s also a 24-year-old with ambitions of obtaining a Ph.D. in mathematics after his football career ends. (Specifically, he hopes to continue his research in numerical partial differential equations and machine learning, if that means anything to you.)
By the look of things, that won’t be impossible. Urschel already holds a master’s degree in mathematics from Penn State, where he earned a 4.0 grade point average. And last December, he and a team of researchers submitted a paper entitled, “A Cascadic Multigrid Algorithm for Computing the Fiedler Vector of Graph Laplacians.” The paper was accepted into Journal of Computational Mathematics earlier this year.
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