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Smart Man John Urschel Smartly Quits Football

Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images for Liberty Science Center

Baltimore Ravens lineman and math genius John Urschel is walking away from football at age 26.

Urschel, in addition to being a full-time football player, has also been pursuing a Ph.D. in mathematics from MIT. It seems the smart man has decided to do the smart thing and save his brain—and walk away after three full seasons, which makes him eligible for an NFL pension.


In 2015, after 49ers linebacker Chris Borland retired suddenly at age 24, Urschel wrote a blog for the Players’ Tribune in which he discussed his moral dilemma over playing football, but declared his love for the game as enough to stay in the league.

Urschel played at Penn State and earned his bachelor’s and master’s in mathematics, seemingly defying all laws of time-management. In his free time this offseason, he’s been doing things like this, whatever it all means:

The rise of young players calling it quits in the past couple of years has even Adam Schefter hinting vaguely at the “trend” of guys realizing their brains are more important than playing football:


A recent study performed at Boston University found cases of CTE in 110 of 111 football players whose brains were donated for research. The caveat is that most of those donations were probably from men who appeared symptomatic while still alive, which likely skews the data.

Urschel hasn’t said anything about his retirement yet, and a statement by John Harbaugh said the usual: “We respect John and respect his decision. We appreciate his efforts over the past three years and wish him all the best in his future endeavors.”


It’s difficult to look at Urschel’s decision and not wonder how many other players are digesting the news and thinking about their own long-term health.

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About the author

Lindsey Adler

Staff writer at Deadspin.

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