Ex–NFL player John Urschel gave up the game for a Ph.D.—and a life—in math

ONE RECENT AFTERNOON IN CAMBRIDGE, MASS., John Urschel and I strolled along the Charles River on the way to his office at MIT, where he’s pursuing a Ph.D. in mathematics. We were passing some of the MIT athletic facilities when I asked Urschel a seemingly mundane question. Where’s the football field? Urschel’s response was quick: “You’re looking at it.”

Now, I’m no MIT math major. But I’m bright enough to know I was staring straight at a baseball diamond. Such a slip would have been innocent enough, if Urschel hadn’t spent three seasons as an offensive lineman for the Baltimore Ravens.

In the summer of 2017, Urschel announced he was retiring from the NFL, at age 26, to pursue his mathematics doctorate full time. His decision came two days after the

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