John Urschel is a doctoral student at MIT now, but he got his start in Happy Valley — and he’ll be back to celebrate that in a couple months.
Urschel, a former Nittany Lion offensive lineman and fan favorite, will be Penn State’s 2017 Homecoming grand marshal for the weekend of Nov. 10-12.
Urschel made an indelible mark during his time in State College.
The New York native earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mathematics from Penn State, focusing on numerical analysis, graph theory and dynamical systems. All the while, he was a two-time first-team All-Big Ten selection and recognized with several off-field awards, including the 2013 William V. Campbell Trophy — known as the “academic Heisman.”
The 6-foot-3 lineman moved on from Penn State when he was selected by the Baltimore Ravens in the fifth round of the 2013 NFL draft. He played in 40 games with 13 starts before retiring from football in July. His decision was a personal one. It was reportedly not motivated by a broad survey of the impact of chronic traumatic encephalopathy published in The Journal of the American Medical Association two days before his retirement. The survey found that 110 of 111 examined NFL players’ brains suffered from CTE.
Now that his playing career is over, Urschel is focused on learning about combinatorial optimization at MIT. Perhaps he’ll explain what that means to the Homecoming crowd in November.