Inspiring former Ravens player left the NFL to enter the numbers game

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Former NFL player and Ravens offensive lineman John Urschel is simply doing something that not many (if any) players who ever graced a professional football field at the highest of levels have done before and has turned into a Mathematician pro.

Urschel, who left Baltimore in 2016 after spending four years with the Ravens, is an assistant math professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) these days.

The lineman, who played both the center and guard positions in Baltimore from 2014 through 2016 appearing in 40 games and starting 13, earned a Ph.D. in Math in 2021 and published a book a couple of years before.

Urschel, more than half a decade in retirement, is among the School of Science’s recent additions to the teaching faculty. The news popped up on Sept. 25 when MIT announced the arrival of 16 new professors, including Urschel, with a press release.

While Urschel's teammates and the Ravens' staff were aware of his pursuit of education, they were surprised to discover that he had already authored six "peer-reviewed mathematics papers" by 2017. The public recognition came in 2017 when Urschel, at the age of 25, earned a spot on the Forbes 30 Under 30: Science list.

Reflecting on his dual pursuits at the time, Urschel admitted, “I felt actually kind of guilty. I was actually kind of ashamed of myself. I was doing math while playing, but I always prided myself on doing what I wanted to do and not budging on things,” in an interview with Sports Illustrated.

Subsequently, Urschel chose to retire from the NFL after three years to dedicate himself fully to earning his doctorate in matrix analysis and computations, focusing on theoretical insights with practical applications. In 2021, Urschel received his diploma from MIT.

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According to Jamison Hensley of ESPN, Urschel "wants to empower Black children to follow similar paths in science, technology, engineering and mathematics."

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