Penn State's John Urschel crushes calculus off the field

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Strictly by the numbers -- 6 feet tall, 300 pounds, first team All Big Ten -- Penn State offensive guard John Urschel is exceptional.

But it's another set of numbers that elevate him to unique in the world of college football. 

Urschel graduated with a degree in mathematics in just three years, accumulating a perfect 4.0 GPA. He has since finished one master's degree and is working on a second.

urschelclass.jpg
John Urschel graduated with a degree in mathematics in just three years and accumulated a perfect 4.0 GPA.
CBS News
He has as many academic publications to his name as varsity letters.

"I wouldn't say not very common among athletes, this is uncommon among graduate students," Urschel told CBS News. "I'm 22 and I have four papers."

Urschel credits his math background for his ability to analyze defenses and make quick decisions.

urschelfootball.jpg
Penn State offensive guard John Urschel
CBS News
Penn State head coach Bill O'Brien mostly marvels at a player who writes on topics like "Instabilities in the Sun-Jupiter-Asteroid Three Body Problem."

But sometimes, O'Brien just laughs.

"If you give him a percentage of how many times this team blitzes, he's wants to know the whole survey size and what games we looked at and how many numbers related," O'Brien told CBS News. "'John, just take it from us: They blitz a lot.'"

Urschel is just what the doctor ordered for Penn State, whose image was pummeled by the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal. The young player said he "absolutely" feels he has a responsibility to polish up the image of his university.

obrien.jpg
Head Coach Bill O'Brien
CBS News
"I've really taken joy in being able to show people some of the great things Penn Staters are doing -- and that's something that I take very seriously."

Urschel plans to try the NFL, then tackle a Ph.D.

"People look at me and say that there's these two almost completely separate aspects of myself," he said. "But honestly, I'd say it all comes together and it all fits under the same letterhead of just hard work, dedication and a drive to be the best at what I do."

Not a bad foundation -- whatever field he's in, or on.

  • Jim Axelrod

    Jim Axelrod is the anchor of the Saturday edition of the "CBS Evening News" and a national correspondent for CBS News, reporting for the "CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley" and other CBS News broadcasts.

Comments