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The Caw: What John Urschel Learned At MIT


Ravens offensive lineman John Urschel went to MIT this offseason to pursue his doctorate in mathematics.

He took four classes. He got four As.

Specifically, Urschel was studying Spectral Graph Theory, Numerical Linear Algebra and Machine Learning, as his MIT directory shows. He also has his own research page.

What Urschel didn't expect was that he would learn about football from the Division III Engineers while on the Cambridge, Mass. campus.

Urschel fulfilled his mother's longtime dream of going to MIT. She so desperately wanted him to go there instead of Penn State, where he ultimately got his undergraduate degree, that she called MIT's coach and asked him to recruit her son. The coach said he didn't need to see any game film. All Urschel needed to do was show up.

Well, seven years later and after a lot of thought about how to balance both his loves of football and math, Urschel made his mom's dream come true. He not only studied at MIT this spring, but he also trained with the school's football team.

Here's a snippet of Urschel's blog in the Player's Tribune. Read the full story here.

"I didn't know what to expect. But what I found was that the team at MIT is no joke. It is a football team — in some ways, more of a football team than any I'd ever seen. These guys love football. They are playing the game because they want to. No one is making them come to practice, no one is checking up on them. They know as well as anyone about head injuries; they know that football is dangerous; they know the feeling of exhaustion and pain. They still play. They don't do it for money, and they don't do it for status. The average size of their crowds is fewer than 1,000. On campus, no one gives them a second look. (The guys who won the Putnam Competition — a national math contest — three years in a row are the ones who get treated like star quarterbacks.) But they show up every day and work hard because it's their choice — because they love to play.

"We talk a lot about dedication and passion in the pros, but the truth is, sometimes the game feels like a job. You start to think of the paycheck. You feel the grind. But training with the team at MIT, I started thinking about what had drawn me to football as a kid. It felt like a game again. I had thought I might have something to teach the team. I never imagined they'd have so much to teach me."

Of course, Urschel also aced his four classes. Here are some of his Twitter posts from the spring so you can see what he was up to:

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