Former NFL player John Urschel on balancing his passions for math and football

Former Baltimore Ravens offensive lineman John Urschel wrote a new book that chronicles his unique journey to the NFL and his decision to retire from football at the age of 26 to be a mathematician.

Urschel’s memoir, “Mind and Matter: A Life in Math and Football,” tells his inspiring story and gives young student athletes insight on how they can juggle their dual passions, just like he did.

On “Fox & Friends” Tuesday, Urschel explained that he had a talent and a passion for math from a young age, thanks in part to his mother’s support.

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“She would buy me workbooks when I was a kid. We would have puzzle night. Every Friday night we would play games like Monopoly. And it might just seem like a game, but it’s very quantitative,” Urschel said.

By the time he was 13, he was auditing a college-level calculus class.

He also always had a passion for football, which only grew when he joined his high school team and played tackle football for the first time.

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Urschel’s skills on the gridiron resulted in a scholarship to Penn State, where he found a way to manage his double life as a scholar and an athlete.

“It’s tough to do two things at a high level, whatever those two things may be. And, sadly, there’s no secret. It’s just hard work,” Urschel said.

After earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mathematics, he was drafted by the Ravens in the fifth round of the 2014 NFL draft.

He went on to play in 40 NFL games – while simultaneously pursuing his PhD at MIT – before retiring from the league in 2017.

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Now that he’s dedicating more of his time to his mathematics studies at MIT, he has some advice for mathematics teachers: take a cue from football coaches.

“Football coaches, they tell their best players to dream big. They tell their best players they can play college football, they can play pro football,” Urschel said. “I would love to see math teachers telling their students you can be an elite mathematician, you can be a top physicist, you can even dream to be the next Einstein.”

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