Last week, ThePostGame asked Ravens offensive lineman John Urschel, "What is the most enticing offer you get outside of football?"
"When I get offers to do my PhD in math at certain places," Urschel answered.
Then on Tuesday, he announced he will begin a PhD program in math at MIT.
Starting my PhD in math at MIT this offseason!!! pic.twitter.com/vjcSctVx9i
— John Urschel (@JohnCUrschel) January 26, 2016
Urschel, 24, just finished his second season in the NFL. The 6-3, 313-pound offensive guard has started 10 of his 27 career games, but he is known more for his mathematical knowledge than his blocking abilities for the Ravens.
Last season Urschel, who graduated from Penn State with a 4.0 GPA, worked on a math paper on graph eigenfunctions while simultaneously playing professional football. In December 2014, he published "A Cascadic Multigrid Algorithm for Computing the Fielder Vector of Graph Laplacians."
Objectively, Urschel can be a great asset to global society devoting himself to mathematics. But his first love is football.
He keeps the two specialties of his life separate. "No math," he says of his mindset on NFL game days. "That will get me killed."
Outside of math and football, his focus is limited. "If you test me on current things going on in the world, I will fail and embarrass myself," he says.
Urschel believes he has a long career ahead of him. Last March, when former 49ers linebacker Chris Borland retired after just one NFL season, Urschel wrote a first-person essay on why he continues to play.
Two months later, he penned a piece explaining why the NFL extra-point distance change would have a minimal effect on the game, based on math. Analytics are a growing realm in sports, and football is surely, but slowly, getting onboard.
"I think when you apply a structured mathematical foundation to things, you get clarity that you wouldn't otherwise see in something that's very randomized," Urschel says.
He notes the extra-point study is a small sample size for football analytics. There is potential, but there are also growing pains.
"The problem with football is there's so many more moving parts, there's an additional level of randomness that makes it tough to model things," Urschel says. "The other thing that's really going to help is when the data for player tracking systems really becomes available for football, and when this data becomes available to NFL clubs, this is when you'll see bigger use of analytics."
Urschel says he and the Ravens' "analytics guy" are "friends and discuss many things."
"If [analytics do] turn out to be relevant, feel free to let it be known that I am available to hire and I will analyze anyone's data for them," Urschel laughs.
During his fifth year at Penn State in 2013-14, Urschel spent time as a graduate student and a math instructor teaching undergrad courses. After getting drafted in 2014, Urschel maintained a role within the math department as an adjunct researcher. Before accepting his offer from MIT, Urschel says he was affiliated with Penn State on a "permanent basis" and spent some time in State College after the Ravens' season ended.
Unlike many NFL players, Urschel still has a dream to pursue after he hangs up his cleats.
"I can't think of a better job than being a math professor at a top university," he says. "The beauty is I get to research whatever I like. I think it's a great gig and I love teaching and inspiring people."
Urschel opened his offseason by publishing an article comparing NFL mean reversion to other major sports, showing its implication on labor relations. He also posted this photo:
— John Urschel (@JohnCUrschel) January 5, 2016
"It will not be blank for long," he says.
Maybe Urschel just needs some inspiration from his favorite movie, which is ... "Good Will Hunting. No question."
Despite his gift, Urschel continues to consider football his main job (as if that is not a gift). Even after he suffered a concussion at training camp in August, Urschel used high-level math to judge his recovery.
"If I get too many concussions, that's something to keep in mind, but I'm a ways off from that," he says. "I feel very good and I recovered completely from my concussion in August."
Whatever you say, John. Just keep protecting that brain ... and Joe Flacco. The world can use a beautiful mind like yours.
-- John Urschel spoke to ThePostGame on behalf of Gillette, one of his sponsors, which recently relased "Fusion ProShield," a razor that features lubrication before and after the blades. NFL lineman are the face of the campaign, and Urschel even got to dance.
-- Follow Jeffrey Eisenband on Twitter @JeffEisenband.