Athletes are usually known for not having a backup plan after their athletic endeavors come to an end, but former NFL player John Urschel is helping to change that narrative with his new gig as an assistant math professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The Canadian-American is off the field and back in the classroom at his alma mater, MIT, where he earned his Ph.D. in Math in 2021. According to Essence, the retired Baltimore Ravens player is one of the School of Science’s newest educators on campus this fall. Although the first day of classes was on Sept. 6, the surprising news hit the internet when MIT released a press release on Sept. 25 to acknowledge and welcome its 16 new professors, including Urschel, to Beaver Nation.


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Striving for more outside football, after his first year in the NFL, Urschel signed up to become a student at MIT to reach his goal of getting his doctoral degree in 2015, Sports Illustrated reported. When he wasn’t playing football, he was in school studying with hopes of eventually landing a role like the one he’s currently in. Although his teammates and the Ravens staff knew Urschel was in school, they were unaware that he had already published six “peer-reviewed mathematics papers” by 2017.

Due to his work off the field, in 2017, Urschel was recognized publically when he made the Forbes 30 Under 30: Science list at age 25. That same year, during an interview with Sports Illustrated, he admitted that he felt uneasy about pursuing his football and mathemetician dreams simultaneously, but his ambition wouldn’t let him settle for less than the vision he had for himself.

“I felt actually kind of guilty,” he said at the time. “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.”

Urschel retired after playing three years in the NFL to fully commit to earning his doctorate in matrix analysis and computations, emphasizing theoretical conclusions and assurances for practical situations. He received his diploma from MIT in 2021.

According to ESPN, Urschel is proud to serve as a model of representation in the field of mathematics. He’s optimistic that his dedication and success can motivate more Black children to pursue STEM-related careers.

“It’s very hard to dream of being in a career if you can’t relate to anyone who’s actually in that field,” he said.