John Urschel

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John Urschel
refer to caption
Urschel in 2015
No. 64
Personal information
Born: (1991-06-24) June 24, 1991 (age 29)
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
Height:6 ft 3 in (1.91 m)
Weight:302 lb (137 kg)
Career information
High school:Buffalo (NY) Canisius
College:Penn State
NFL Draft:2014 / Round: 5 / Pick: 175
Career history
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL statistics as of 2016
Games played:40
Games started:13
Player stats at
Player stats at PFR

John Cameron Urschel (born June 24, 1991) is a Canadian-American mathematician and retired professional American football guard and center.[1][2] He played college football at Penn State and was drafted by the Baltimore Ravens in the fifth round of the 2014 NFL Draft. Urschel played his entire NFL career with Baltimore before announcing his retirement on July 27, 2017, at 26 years old.

Urschel has bachelor's and master's degrees in mathematics from Penn State and is pursuing a Ph.D. in mathematics from MIT.[3][4] He has published peer-reviewed articles in mathematics.[5][6][7] He is an advanced stats columnist for The Players' Tribune.

Early life and education[edit]

Urschel was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. His parents, John Urschel and Venita Parker, were a surgeon and attorney, respectively. He grew up in Buffalo, New York, where he attended Canisius High School.[8]

He earned a bachelor's and master's in mathematics at Pennsylvania State University. While at Penn State, he was awarded the William V. Campbell Trophy, known as the "academic Heisman".

Professional football career[edit]

2014 NFL draft[edit]

Pre-draft measurables
Height Weight Arm length Hand size 40-yard dash 10-yard split 20-yard split 20-yard shuttle Three-cone drill Vertical jump Broad jump Bench press Wonderlic
6 ft 3 in
(1.91 m)
313 lb
(142 kg)
33 in
(0.84 m)
10 38 in
(0.26 m)
5.31 s 34.5 s 5.7 s 7.55 s 29 in
(0.74 m)
8 ft 6 in
(2.59 m)
30 reps 43
All values from NFL Combine[9]

Urschel was selected by the Baltimore Ravens in the fifth round of the 2014 NFL draft with the 175th overall pick. He played in 11 games, starting three, for the Ravens in 2014. He appeared in 16 games, starting seven, for the team in 2015.[10]


On July 27, 2017, Urschel announced his retirement from the NFL after three seasons.[11][12] The Baltimore Sun reported that the JAMA study on the prevalence of chronic traumatic encephalopathy in deceased players was a factor in Urschel's decision.[13]

Mathematics career[edit]

While a Penn State undergraduate, Urschel was involved in teaching integral vector calculus, trigonometry and analytic geometry, and introduction to econometrics.[14] In 2015, Urschel co-authored a paper in the Journal of Computational Mathematics[15] titled "A Cascadic Multigrid Algorithm for Computing the Fiedler Vector of Graph Laplacians". It includes "a cascadic multigrid algorithm for fast computation of the Fiedler vector of a graph Laplacian, namely, the eigenvector corresponding to the second smallest eigenvalue."[16]

Urschel began a Ph.D. in mathematics at MIT in 2016,[17] focusing on spectral graph theory, numerical linear algebra, and machine learning.[18] MIT does not allow Ph.D. students to study part-time; while the Ravens knew that he was taking classes, Urschel admitted after retiring from the team that he did not disclose that he was a full-time graduate student. During the 2016 NFL season, after a home game Urschel studied from 5:30pm Sunday to Tuesday 11am when football practice began, taking correspondence classes.[19] On January 4, 2017, Urschel was named to Forbes' "30 Under 30" list of outstanding young scientists. His Forbes biography states "Urschel has published six peer-reviewed mathematics papers to date and has three more ready for review. That's a respectable publication history for someone who only started pursuing their PhD at MIT this year. He's won academic awards for his math prowess. All this while playing guard for the Baltimore Ravens."[20][21] His doctoral advisor is Michel Goemans.[22]

As of 2017, Urschel has an Erdős number of 4.[23]

Awards and honors[edit]

  • 2013: Senior CLASS Award[24]
  • 2016-2018: Dean of Science Fellowship[24]
  • 2017: Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list in science[25]

Chess hobby[edit]

Urschel competed in the 2015 Pittsburgh Open, finishing in 12th place (tied for 9th) with 3.0 points (+2-1=2) in the Under 1700 rating section.[26][27]

Personal life[edit]

Urschel is married to writer Louisa Thomas, whom he met when she was profiling him for Grantland. They have one daughter.[8] Urschel's autobiography, Mind and Matter: A Life in Math and Football, was co-written by Thomas and published in 2019.[28][29]

See also[edit]

  • Laurent Duvernay-Tardif – current NFL player who earned a medical degree while playing in the league
  • Bill McColl - former NFL player who became an orthopedic surgeon, father of Milt McColl
  • Milt McColl - former NFL linebacker who became a medical doctor
  • Frank Ryan – former NFL player and mathematician, who maintained an academic career while playing in the league
  • Myron Rolle – former NFL defensive back who was also a Rhodes scholar and neurosurgeon


  1. ^ "Baltimore Ravens: John Urschel". Archived from the original on September 3, 2017. Retrieved September 14, 2017.
  2. ^
  3. ^ "Ravens Lineman John Urschel Loves Math More Than You Love Anything". Deadspin. March 20, 2015. Retrieved March 23, 2015.
  4. ^ "John Urschel". Twitter. May 23, 2013. Retrieved March 23, 2015.
  5. ^ Alexandra Wolfe. "John Urschel: From the NFL to MIT". The Wall Street Journal, March 3, 2016. Accessed October 30, 2016.
  6. ^ Michael S. Rosenwald. "NFL's John Urschel has a brain made for math. And he's willing to risk it on the field.". The Washington Post, October 9, 2016. Accessed October 30, 2016.
  7. ^ "Ravens guard John Urschel to take on U.S. champion in chess - FOX Sports". May 18, 2016. Retrieved September 14, 2017.
  8. ^ a b Ellenberg, Jordan (September 28, 2018). "John Urschel Goes Pro". Hmm Daily. Retrieved September 29, 2018.
  9. ^ "John Urschel". Retrieved May 10, 2014.
  10. ^ "John Urschel". Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved April 22, 2016.
  11. ^ Mink, Ryan (July 27, 2017). "Genius Mathematician John Urschel Is Retiring From the NFL".[permanent dead link]
  12. ^ Orr, Conor (July 27, 2017). "John Urschel tells Ravens he's retiring from NFL".
  13. ^ Walker, Childs; Dance, Scott; Zrebiec, Jeff (July 27, 2016). "Concerned with long-term damage from head injuries, Ravens offensive lineman John Urschel retires". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved July 31, 2017.
  14. ^ "John Urschel's Homepage". Retrieved November 9, 2018.
  15. ^ Mullen, Jethro (March 22, 2015). "Unusual equation: Baltimore Ravens' guard John Urschel is a math whiz". Retrieved March 22, 2015.
  16. ^ Urschel, John C.; Hu, Xiaozhe; Xu, Jinchao; Zikatanov, Ludmil T. (2015). "A Cascadic Multigrid Algorithm for Computing the Fiedler Vector of Graph Laplacians" (PDF). Journal of Computational Mathematics. 33 (2): 209–226. arXiv:1412.0565. doi:10.4208/jcm.1412-m2014-0041. Archived from the original (PDF) on April 27, 2015. Retrieved April 20, 2015.
  17. ^ Miller, Stephen D. (2016). "'I plan to be a great mathematician': An NFL Offensive Lineman Shows He's One of Us" (PDF). Notices of the American Mathematical Society. 63 (2): 148–151. doi:10.1090/noti1331.
  18. ^ Clements, Ron (May 25, 2016). "Ravens guard John Urschel's straight-A streak continues at MIT". Sporting News. Retrieved June 9, 2016.
  19. ^ Heck, Jordan (September 7, 2017). "John Urschel didn't tell Ravens he was a full-time Ph.D. student at MIT while in the NFL". Sporting News. Retrieved October 8, 2019.
  20. ^ "Ravens' John Urschel makes prestigious Forbes '30 Under 30' list". Retrieved September 14, 2017.
  21. ^ "John Urschel". Retrieved September 14, 2017.
  22. ^ "Michel Goemans People". Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Retrieved November 1, 2020.
  23. ^ "MR:Search MSC database". Retrieved November 9, 2018.
  24. ^ a b "Heard on Campus: John Urschel at the Penn State Forum | Penn State University". Retrieved November 9, 2018.
  25. ^ "John Urschel". Forbes. Retrieved November 9, 2018.
  26. ^ "2015 Pittsburgh Open". United States Chess Federation. November 2, 2016. Retrieved November 2, 2016.
  27. ^, University of Manitoba -. "Mathlete in the House: NFLer-cum-mathematician John Urschel to deliver public lecture at U of M". Retrieved November 9, 2018.
  28. ^ Urschel, John; Thomas, Louisa (2019). Mind and Matter: A Life in Math and Football. ISBN 978-0735224865.
  29. ^ Santa Maria, Cara (August 19, 2019). Talk Nerdy Episode 271 - John Urschel (Podcast).

External links[edit]