Former NFL Player John Urschel Joins MIT Faculty as a Math Professor


October 5, 2023

Former Baltimore Ravens player John Urschel is now a professor of mathematics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology!

According to a press release by the university, Urschel is a mathematician focused on matrix analysis and computations, with an emphasis on theoretical results and provable guarantees for practical problems. His research interests include numerical linear algebra, spectral graph theory, and topics in theoretical machine learning.

He received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mathematics from Pennsylvania State University and then completed a PhD in mathematics at MIT in 2021. He was a member of the Institute for Advanced Study and a junior fellow at Harvard University before returning to MIT as an assistant professor of mathematics this fall.


Urschel was working toward his PhD in mathematics at MIT during his time in the NFL playing for the Baltimore Ravens. His teammates knew he was pursuing a degree. But they didn’t know that he was publishing six academic papers. He even made the Forbes 30 Under 30 list in 2017 for his work as an award-winning mathematician at age 25.

“I felt actually kind of guilty,” Urschel explained in a Sports Illustrated interview. “I was actually kind of ashamed of myself. I was doing math while playing, but I always prided myself on doing what I wanted to do and not budging on things.”

Ultimately, after three seasons with the NFL, Urschel retired in 2017 to pursue his passion for advanced theoretical mathematics. According to ESPN, Urschel wants to empower Black children to follow similar paths in STEM.


Photo by Massachusetts Institute of Technology

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