Ex-NFL player John Urschel was the game for a promotion and a math life

Ex-NFL player John Urschel was the game for a promotion and a math life

One recent afternoon in Cambridge, Mass., John Urschel and I walked along the Charles River on the way to his office at MIT, where he will pursue a doctorate in mathematics. We were among the sports facilities of MIT over when I asked Urschel a seemingly trivial question. Where is the football field? Urschel response was quick: “You’re looking at.” Be ‘, I’m not one of the major MIT mathematics. But I’m smart enough to know that I just fixed on a baseball diamond. Such a shift would be innocent enough when Urschel had spent three seasons as offensive lineman for the Baltimore Ravens. In the summer of 2017 he announced Urschel will retire from the NFL, at age 26, his math promoting full-time. His decision came two days after the Journal of the American Medical Association published a study showing chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative disease had, in the brains of 110 to 111 former NFL players studied found by researchers at the University of Boston. Yes, the results included in the Urschel decision. But he insists he does not tip the scales. He was thinking hard about pace, as already take classes at MIT. However, the media portrayed as further proof that intelligent choice Urschel young professionals, brain trauma, for fear of the game were on the run. The Urschel history proves to be irresistible: the MIT mathematician had calculated that the NFL was simply not worth it. After I informed Urschel that no, he did not try on a football field, he smiles. “I just do not care,” he says. Urschel But I disagree when I say its slide as a sign that he left behind is football away. Nearly two years after his retirement, says that while he miss the paycheck, who would not? -He heard a single pang of regret in football Sunday when 300 lb wrestling with sentences instead. Linesman. “It ‘a life pretty cool,” he says. “I wake up in the morning, I go to my office. I think all day” Urschel devotes much of his new memoir, spirit and matter. A life in mathematics and calcium-written with his partner, journalist Thomas Louisa espousing the importance of problem solving. “It ‘a strange thing,” he said Urschel living in the apartment he shares with Thomas Cambridge and her year-old daughter, Giovanna. “Some people are kind of ├╝ber joke, Oh, I was never in mathematics gut.’Aber people they do not joke about illiterate. To be mathematically illiterate, this may be quite dangerous.” Growing up in Buffalo, NY, Urschel started her love affair with the prime numbers. When his mother took him shopping lawyer, she lets him keep the change when calculating the sales tax of 8% before the cashier call. In the summer before eighth grade, he has been testing a computing class at the University of Buffalo, where his father, a surgeon, was pursuing a master’s degree in business. Soon the high kids boys had support students end set of problems. He fell for football. Urschel writes that when he was in high school, he and his father, who played collegially in Canada and beat helmets in the backyard. In concussion conscious world of today, doctors frown on this type of contact butt. However Urschel says. “These are some of my favorite times with my dad actually” Urschel earned a football scholarship to Penn State, where he studied mathematics. He had his degree and had an article published in a top journal linear algebra By the time the Ravens selected him in the fifth round of the 2014 NFL draft,. (Urschel is specialized in graph theory, the Advanced branch of mathematics that studies the connectivity of networks.) As a rookie season in which he started after three games, and two in the playoffs, he was ashamed to postpone his Ph .D . Work until ended pro football. “I felt like I was just selling,” he says. So he turned to the PhD program at MIT and was accepted. called the American Mathematical Society a series of Urschel and his co-author. “Let G be a finite connected undirected weighted graph without self-loops …”, the Urschel Zikatanov movement begins. Before the 2015 season Urschel had suffered a concussion that process high-level mathematics for a few months will not leave, but returned to action. In the summer of 2017 his options was closer weighing it. He was falling in Life Ph.D., and Thomas was pregnant. Stomp heads seemed unattractive. Then the study was published CTE. Two days later he informed Baltimore coach John Harbaugh who thinks retirement, no one would notice. But his phone rang off the hook. He must not go out for days. “It ‘was one of the most unpleasant moments of my life,” he says. A few years later, Urschel insists he does not fear that the possible symptoms of CTE forgetfulness, mood swings, depression-will hinder his career. Of course, as offensive lineman absorb blows to the head. But he points out that just because more than 99% of the surveyed in the study had the brains CTE means that no more than 99% of former players. These studies have a bias of self-selection: many players have their brains, because they think that they can be damaged. So how many players do not suspect that would have CTE? “It is epsilon close to zero,” he says. “It is not a big constant fraction of 100. You know what I’m saying?. It borders two away” books with titles such as partial differential equations in action and hierarchical popular matrices Urschel MIT office, along with the usual fare of graduate students fuels late-night search: black canned beans, sardines and tuna StarKist. Urschel car geek to know the mathematics department expressed and equations that fill the hallway whiteboards. Mathematics can be ruthless like football: Urschel not accept the argument of his thesis, so competition is after it. “But something on board,” he says in the room, “Fair Game.” Sports teams that have their analyzes of personnel transactions must have calls with offers. But the academic life holds much more appeal. When I ask him to explain the math of converting to two points, he does not like. “This is the lowest level as it gets,” he says. He pulls a series of probability tree diagrams in chalk: let’s just say that if your team is going to 14 with five minutes to a landing and scores, go to the coach needs for two. Urschel prefers to spend his time to promote math. He visited classrooms across the country. It is recommended In early May, he spoke at the National Math Festival in books D. C. on the calculation on his Twitter feed. “I could owned a problem for days on for weeks, think of anything else, it could be the way someone obsessed with a girl,” he writes in his book. “But it’s not a girl I ever met took me the unique feeling of commitment that I show something got harder.” He wants at all levels, they also know that athletes should not compromise their minds. “The United States, more than any other culture, the strange marriage of athletics and academics,” said Urschel. “I thought it was important to show that this is something that can really koexistieren-“. It is 350 miles from Baltimore, but it could be 35,000. Urschel switches office lighting, and eat heads home for dinner and finish some work. Other equations expect.
Photo copyright Tony Luong for TIME