Ravens' John Urschel begins Ph.D program at MIT

Baltimore Ravens center John Urschel began his offseason program Monday: the Applied Mathematics Ph.D program at MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Speaking to The MMQB's Peter King, Urschel compared starting a doctorate program at a top mathematics university to gameday in the NFL.

"I feel a lot like I feel before a game," he said. "Nerves are naturally high, feeding off of uncertainty. But overall, I feel commensurate."

Added Urschel: "I can't wait to get started. Naturally, this is a dream come true. I can't think of anything I'd rather be doing than playing in the NFL and getting my Ph.D in math from MIT. I've always aspired to do both, but I never imagined I'd be doing both at the same time."

As a player renewing his academic career, Urschel admitted there is some concern about playing a sport in which head trauma can lead to long-term brain damage, but added that he loved both football and math enough to pursue high-quality careers in each fields.

"Both math and football are young persons' games" Urschel said. "Very few guys are still playing at 40. The major prize in math is the Fields Medal, which is given to a mathematician 40 or younger. That's our Nobel Prize. I try to do what I enjoy, and I really enjoy playing football and doing mathematics. I recovered from the concussion I had, and I didn't seem to have any after-effects.

"Time is constantly running out on you. I don't know when I'll die. I don't know when I'll be fired by the Ravens. I don't know when I won't be sharp enough to produce elegant and meaningful mathematical results. But my plan is to work as hard as I can on both things and try to be as accomplished as I can in both things. They both bring me great fulfillment."

Urschel started seven games down the stretch of the 2015 season after an injury to starter Jeremy Zuttah. Pro Football Focus rated Urschel 28 out of 40 centers this season. The 24-year-old -- who plans to continue working out while attending MIT -- said his goal is to improve both on the field and in the classroom.

"It's important to me that my work as a mathematician stands on its own footing," Urschel said. "I don't want to be viewed as some sideshow. I want it to be known that I do good mathematical research, and that this is independent of what I do on Sundays. I want to be remembered as a good mathematician. Really, I want to be elite. MIT is the first step."

Make sure to watch Super Bowl Opening Night live Monday on NFL Network at 8 p.m. ET.

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