The Ravens got themselves a smarty.
Baltimore selected the NCAA’s academic Heisman winner, guard/center John Urshel, out of Penn State with the 175th-overall selection at the end of the fifth round.
The 6-foot-3, 313-pound blocker was the winner of the Campbell Trophy as the nation's premier college football scholar athlete. It’s the NCAA's highest athletic-academic award.
He earned a Master's degree in mathematics with a 4.0 GPA and graduated in three years. Urschel then taught two undergraduate courses, Integral Vector Calculus Trigonometry and Analytical Geometry, during the fall and spring semesters.
His paper titled “Instabilities of the Sun-Jupiter-Asteroid Three Body Problem” was published in 2012 in a scientific journal. A second paper titled “A Space-Time Multigrid Method for the Numerical Valuation of Barrier Options” has also been accepted for publication.
Ravens General Manager Ozzie Newsome said he once asked a Hall of Fame offensive lineman and former coach what the most important trait is for an offensive lineman. He said being smart.
“This kid that we just got is at the top of the charts," Newsome said with a laugh.
So how do those smarts translate to the field?
“I think it definitely helps,” Urschel said. “I really take the mental aspect of the game very seriously, especially when it comes to breaking down film.”
Urschel is so smart that just before the Ravens drafted him, they asked him whether football would be his first love moving forward.
"I guess I passed with flying colors," Urschel told reporters.
"I’m really shutting down that chapter of my life for a while so I can focus on being a football player. … I’m really excited to focus on football now, all day every day.”
The Penn State team captain started all 12 games at right guard last year. Urschel said he can play all three interior offensive line positions in the NFL.
He is well-versed in a pro-style offense having been coached by Bill O’Brien, who is now the head coach of the Houston Texans.
The knock on Urschel is a lack of athleticism and 33-inch arms. He's worked to overcome his shorter arms and lesser talent this offseason by training in mixed martial arts to strengthen his punch.
“I’m in the best shape of my life,” Urschel said before talking about what makes him a good football player.
“My intelligence certainly helps. I feel like I really bring a toughness, a real get-after-it attitude and that’s something I take pride in.”
Urschel was asked whether he could help teach some of the Baltimore reporters statistics.
“If you want to get something going, we can get a blackboard,” he said with a laugh. “Listen, I’ll do whatever they need.”