BALTIMORE (WJZ)– This summer, as the Ravens prepared for their first full-team practice of training camp, offensive lineman John Urschel decided to hang up his cleats.
In an exclusive interview with WJZ, he told Jessica Kartalija why he made the decision to give up the game he loves.
After three seasons with the Ravens, the Penn State graduate, doctoral student at MIT and the man who has been dubbed the NFL’s smartest man decided to end his football career.
“That was out of the blue,” said Ravens head coach John Harbaugh. “He had been working hard. He was working on his snaps all summer. He was doing a great job. It was definitely a lightning bolt that way.”
His retirement came just two days after a study was released showing a link between concussions and brain disease among former NFL players. The study found the disease in 99 percent of deceased NFL players’ brains that were donated to scientific research.
“My decision to retire early did come as a surprise to some people,” 26-year-old Urschel said. “For me, I thought about it with my family and it felt like the right decision for me. Of course, I still love football, it’s still my favorite game in the world. I was blessed to play it at the highest level, and I have experiences playing football that i’ll never forget. I recommend football, or any team sport to young people just to be able to experience what it’s like to be a part of a team and be a part of a group. For me personally, it felt like time to focus my efforts more on my second career to give myself the opportunity to be the best mathematician I can be.”
Urschel says the study was not what drove him to end his football career.
“This was one thing that I was slightly unhappy with when I retired. The amount of coverage that my retirement got, with respect to this study. I would warn NFL players against putting too much stock in the study. So, I would warn them against seeing the number and making a quick decision.”
In August of 2015, Urschel collided with another player, was knocked unconscious and suffered a concussion.
In a prior interview, he said. “I think it hurt my ability to think well mathematically. It took me a little bit longer before my high-level visualizations ability came back.”
Urschel is the spokesperson for Texas Instruments Education Technology and has worked with students at Baltimore County Schools.
“I love going into classrooms and talking to kids about mathematics and STEM. I’m a teacher at heart. I want to become a professor and my life goal is to try and teach young people and inspire young people with respect to mathematics. I think this is one of the most important things we need to deal with in America right now–how to educate our young people with respect to the sciences to bring about the next generation of scientists.”
Urschel was expected to compete for the Ravens starting center position. He says he’ll miss playing in Baltimore.
“The Ravens are a first class organization. I loved playing for Baltimore. I wouldn’t have played anywhere else. The memories I made there were just great. The people there are truly great people. They love football, but they also love taking care of their players. It builds a sort of family. I love the fans. I’m convinced they’re the best fans in the NFL. I know people always say this, but I’m convinced of it.”
“To the people of Baltimore, and to the Ravens flock, I’d really like to say thank you, for supporting me and welcoming me into your family.”
Urschel was recently named to Forbes 30 Under 30 in the field of science and is expecting a baby in December.