John Urschel has been making power plays on and off the field for years. From the NFL to the world of mathematics, the former football player’s analytical skills have equipped him for a life filled with success.

According to an ESPN NFL post on Instagram, Urschel was recently hired as a professor of mathematics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and while one may think he’s living out his retirement dreams, his journey to the position shows his love for math was always there.


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What’s more, prior to being drafted by the Baltimore Ravens in 2014, Urschel earned both a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree while playing football for Pennsylvania State University.

The Best Of Both Worlds

Much like his college career, Urschel’s time in the league was split between studying and playing football, as he was wearing his cleats by day and working toward his Ph.D. by night at MIT.

In fact, throughout the course of his three years in the NFL with the Ravens, his fellow teammates and colleagues knew that he was working toward a degree, but had no idea that he was using his free time to publish six academic papers.

Ultimately, he made the Forbes 30 Under 30 list for his work as a respected scientist.

“I felt actually kind of guilty,” Urschel explained in a 2017 Sports Illustrated interview. “I was actually kind of ashamed of myself. I was doing math while I was playing, but I always prided myself on doing what I wanted to do and not budging on things.”

There have been many times that Urschel had to make the decision between his love for math and his love for the game.

Furthering His Love For Mathematics

Per ESPN, the now 32-year-old decided on early retirement in 2017 to take his interest in advanced theoretical mathematics head-on, completing his Ph.D. at MIT in 2021.

According to his MIT bio, Urschel currently “is a mathematician focused on matrix analysis and computations, with an emphasis on theoretical results and provable guarantees for practical problems. His research interests include numerical linear algebra, spectral graph theory, and topics in theoretical machine learning.”

His love for football, however, never departed as he is also serving a three-year term on the College Football Playoff selection committee. It looks like John Urschel is living the best of both worlds!