Why John Urschel’s post NFL career will be much more impressive than his football career. : ThyBlackMan

Thursday, December 14, 2017


Why John Urschel’s post NFL career will be much more impressive than his football career.

September 17, 2017 by  
Filed under News, Opinion, Sports, Weekly Columns

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(ThyBlackMan.com) The National Football League is filled with some of the best athletes on the planet. Although NFL teams often see their own players as disposable commodities that can be released or waived without the same financial consequences of other professional sports leagues, it is clear that the athletes in the NFL are as varied as the people in the communities that they come from. The social consciousness of NFL players has been more visible because of social media and the high profile national anthem protests but it is important to remember that NFL players also have varying interests and talents outside of throwing, catching, tackling, and running. Few NFL players have displayed the idea that NFL players are complex individuals more than former NFL offensive lineman John Urschel, whose departure from the NFL leaves the league with one less critical and complex thinking individual.

John Urschel was a first-team Capital One/CoSIDA Academic All-American during his college career at Penn State. He accumulated numerous on the field accolades because of his work standing six feet, three inches tall as an offensive lineman who weighed about 300 pounds. His size was dwarfed by his off the field accomplishments including being a three-time Academic All-Big Ten honoree, who graduated with a 4.0 grade-point average in mathematics in May 2012, less than three years after enrolling in the University. He immediately began working on a master’s degree in math and graduated in May 2013 with a 4.0 GPA. Arguably the biggest indicator of Urschel’s academic success was the fact that he won the prestigious William V. Campbell Trophy, as the nation’s top college football scholar-athlete, in 2013.

Unfortunately, Urschel was also present during the rocky transition away from the Joe Paterno era of Penn State football towards the uncertainty of the football program following the Jerry Sandusky child abuse scandal. The leadership of John Urschel and several of the Penn State juniors and seniors who stayed on the football team during the 2012 and 2013 football seasons under former head coach Bill O’Brien was one of the stories of college football during those years. After his collegiate career was over, John Urschel documented his journey into the NFL with through the newspaper, The San Diego Union Tribune.

It was clear through this documentation that the former Penn State offensive lineman with the Master’s degree in math had a personable, humble, and endearing personality that would lead to professional success. The Baltimore Ravens thought highly enough of John Urschel to select him in the fifth round of the 2014 NFL Draft. While he spent his three years in the NFL mostly as a backup, Urschel was considered a contender to be a starting offensive lineman for the Ravens for the 2017 season until he made an important decision.

The retirement of John Urschel from the NFL at the age of 26 was surprising because it came shortly after the public release of a study published in the medical journal JAMA revealed that chronic traumatic encephalopathy, known as CTE, was found in 99% of deceased NFL players’ brains that were donated to scientific research. However, Urschel is well prepared for life after football as he was a full-time Ph.D. student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology while he was playing in the NFL. The same M.I.T. that is considered among the top colleges and universities in America had a NFL player pulling double duty as a student and pro athlete. It will be fascinating to see what the future holds for John Urschel.

Staff Writer; Mark Hines


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