Baltimore Ravens offensive lineman John Urschel is more than just a football player. He’s also a mathematician. And a very good one. While at Penn State, Urschel earned his undergraduate degree and masters — both in math, both early, both with a 4.0 GPA — while teaching at the school and playing football for the Nittany Lions. Since graduating, Urschel has kept working with math, publishing academic papers and doing intense high-level research.
Urschel was in New York last week to promote his partnership with the marketing firm Persado, which uses advanced math concepts to help companies to reach customers more effectively. While he was in town, he stopped by the SI Kids offices to talk about math, why it’s important kids learn math, and his thoughts on the upcoming football season.
Check out an edited version of our conversation, and pick up the July issue of SI Kids for a profile of the world’s biggest mathlete!
Baltimore Ravens kicker Justin Tucker talks about splitting the uprights and hitting the right notes
I like listening to and playing all different types of music, from hip-hop and rap, to hard rock, to classical music and opera. My fifth-grade talent show was the first time I had a big performance for a bunch of people. I sang "Danke Schoen," made famous in the 1960s. I had some nerves and some butterflies, but I was ready to roll. I was working the crowd, walking down the stairs of the stage, winking at the fifth-grade girls and having a good time.
Last weekend, PPL Park in Chester, PA, hosted the Penn Mutual Collegiate Rugby Championship. Inside the home of the Philsadelipa Union, high school and small college rugby teams competed for titles. But on the practice fields outside, kids were running drills led by rugby and football coaches.
The activity was part of the free Heads Up tackling clinic, which was set up by the Championship organizers to teach aspiring football and rugby players how to tackle safely.
But instead of teaching football tackling methods, the young athletes learned skills from one of the fastest growing sports in America: rugby.
It began with a tweet. In the early morning hours of January 19, as much of America slept after the New England Patriots’ 45–7 victory over the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC championship game, Indianapolis sportswriter Bob Kravitz broke the news that the NFL was investigating the possibility that New England had intentionally deflated footballs, in violation of league rules.
So commenced a months-long circus that involved Patriots quarterback Tom Brady seeming to pretend that he didn’t know what a football was and coach Bill Belichick attempting to act like he had a PhD in air-pressure sciences.
The drama finally came to an end Monday when the NFL severely punished Brady and the Pats’ organization on the heels of the release of a much-anticipated league-commissioned report into the matter.
More than three months ago, quarterback Tom Brady led the New England Patriots to its fourth Super Bowl victory. But the celebration came to an abrupt end.
Yesterday, the NFL suspended Brady for four games for his role in a scheme to illegally deflate footballs. The Patriots were fined $1 million and lost a first-round draft pick in 2016 and a fourth-round selection in 2017 because of the "Deflate" gate scandal.
The punishment was handed down after the NFL released the findings of an investigation into Deflategate led by Ted Wells.
Our moms do a lot for us, and we should celebrate them everyday. But that’s especially true on Sunday, which is Mother’s Day. To mark the occasion, we asked four star athletes to share the wise words from mom that helped prepare them for success.
Work Now, Play Later
Advice from Danielle Payton, mother of Orlando Magic point guard Elfrid Payton
"Growing up, my mom always advised me that it was important to take care of my work before I played," says Elfrid. "I wasn't allowed to play basketball or hang out with my friends until all my homework was done. My mom always wanted us to prioritize work before play because she wanted to make sure we knew where to focus our efforts throughout our lives. To this day, I make sure that I take care of any work obligations first because my mom's voice in my head is saying, 'Keep working, keep working, and the fun stuff will be that much more rewarding.' Whether it's getting reps in the gym, eating healthy, or watching film — all of that needs to be done first. That work ethic has been ingrained in me since day one thanks to my mom. I give credit to my mom for fostering a drive for success in me because, as an athlete, you have to make sure that you focus on what you need to get done first and foremost. I also plan on finishing my education degree in a few years because I know how important it is, thanks to my mom. She works hard at her job helping people with disabilities find and maintain employment, and I look up to her for that. She always made sure we had what we needed. For that I am grateful."
On Friday afternoon, a few hours before the start of the second and third rounds of the NFL Draft at the Auditorium Theater here in Chicago, I joined the hordes headed to the outdoor fan festival, Draft Town. The energy was apparent in the throngs that walked into Grant Park representing nearly every one of the 32 teams. It was like a migration to football land.
And the whole setup was a football lover’s dream. The NFL’s sponsors had built tents showcasing their products, and just inside the entrance, there were stations where kids could play Madden 15.
Mannequins dressed in the jerseys of every NFL team lined the paths, with holes where the heads would have been so fans could stand behind them and have their photos taken. Draftees and famous players signed autographs, and tents showcasing memorabilia from every team lined the walk.