Master Class

Master Class

According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Ron Cook, Winnipeg’s John Urschel just might be the “smartest man in sports.”

Urschel, a rookie guard-center who was born in Winnipeg but attended high school in New York state, was drafted in the fifth round of the 2014 NFL Draft by the Baltimore Ravens.

Last year at Penn State, Urschel won the National Football Foundation’s Campbell Trophy, which goes to the nation’s top student-athlete. Cook writes:

“With math, it’s about the beauty,” Urschel has said. No, that’s not something you hear often from an NFL player. Then again, Urschel isn’t typical in any sense. His Twitter account is @MathMeetsFball. He described his Penn State years like this: “I did only two things all day, every day — I studied math and I played football. I wouldn’t say I was the epitome of a balanced, well-rounded person, but I loved every single day.” Urschel hopes to get a doctorate’s degree from a school such as Massachusetts Institute of Technology.”
“I would like to be a professor or a researcher. I could work for NASA or on Wall Street.”

What truly sets Urschel apart is that he has not only reached elite levels in the classroom (Urschel earned a math bachelor’s degree with a 4.0 average in three years while a Nittany Lion, also completing a master’s in math, moving on to a second master’s in math education, all while maintaining a perfect GPA and teaching classes in trigonometry and calculus). He is also a turning heads as a National Football League player.’s Jameson Hensley writes that Urschel is a big part of a rookie class that is the most immediately productive in coach John Harbaugh’s seven seasons.

“No other group of rookies have been on the field more than this year’s one,” wrote Jameson in a recent post. “Seven first-year players have logged at least 95 snaps this season. How special is that? The previous six rookie classes have never had more than four players contribute that much for an entire season, much less the first 10 games of a season like these current rookies.”

Urschel made the Ravens after beating out another former Penn State lineman, A.Q. Shipley, for his roster spot. His first starts came in weeks six and seven against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Atlanta Falcons, in place of injured left guard Kelechi Osemele.

In his Pittsburgh Post-Gazette piece Cook points out that Pro Football Focus, which analyzes the play of every NFL player, gave Urschel high praise for his work in those two starts.

The Ravens ran behind him 24 times for 130 yards, including 12 times for 86 yards against Tampa Bay when he often had to block All-Pro defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, who just signed a seven-year, $95.2 million contract extension. Urschel also allowed quarterback Joe Flacco to be hurried just once in the two games, prompting this from Ravens coach John Harbaugh: “He’s getting what he’s earned. He deserves it. He works really hard and he loves football. He studies the game.

“It’s a never-ending process to get better in the NFL,” Urschel told Cook. “There are no weeks off. Every team you play is very good and very talented. That’s the biggest difference between the pros and college.”