First down and PhD to go


Basketball great Julius Erving played so brilliantly that fans called him “Dr. J.” When people start calling Baltimore Ravens football player John Urschel “Dr. U.,” however, it will be for more than his prowess as a lineman. Urschel, who has already completed bachelor’s and master’s degrees in math and work toward a second master’s in math education, all from football powerhouse Pennsylvania State University, has announced plans to spend the coming offseasons pursuing his Ph.D. in math at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The self-styled “professional mathlete” describes himself as a graduate student in spectral graph theory, numerical linear algebra, and machine learning. The Amateur Athletic Union, on the other hand, called him “the nation’s best amateur athlete” when it gave him its 2013 James E. Sullivan Award before he joined the NFL.

“He knows what he wants in life,” says Ravens teammate James Hurst, as quoted by . “He knows that [football] is a very short-term opportunity. You can’t come back and do this when you’re 40. … But at the same time, he loves those things he’s good at. He’s incredibly blessed to have those [academic] opportunities as well.” Already, in fact, another teammate has a nickname for Urschel, The Sun reports. It’s “The Professor.”

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