Risking a Beautiful Mind Photo Courtesy of Sports Illustrated

Lombardi's Way Risking a Beautiful Mind

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John Urschel was drafted by the Baltimore Ravens in the 5th-round of the 2014 NFL Draft, the 175th overall pick out of Penn State. When the pick was made, Urschel had already earned his undergraduate degree and was well on his way towards completing his Master’s Degree in Math inside of one year.

Today he is working towards his Ph.D. at MIT. He has been a featured speaker during spring commencement at Penn State College of Science. He’s taught Trigonometry and Analytical Geometry at his alma mater. Urschel is also an accomplished chess player and dabbles in guitar, aspiring to one day become part of a blues band.

Urschel lecture

Urschel is a special man with unique gifts and possesses a rare cerebral cortex – intelligence that most can’t even begin to understand, present company included.

He has a beautiful mind.

By his own admission, Urschel doesn’t need money. He claims to have more cash in the bank than he knows what to do with. He doesn’t aspire to have things. He drives a 2013 Nissan Versa that he paid $9,000 for while his peers cruise into One Winning Drive in Escalades, Mercedes, Hummers and Italian sports cars. His bedroom consists of a box spring, mattress, dresser and a blackboard – just in case he awakes from a dream with a new mathematical theory that could be scientifically groundbreaking.

Urschel claims that he can live on $25,000 per year, not because he’s frugal, but because the things that interest him aren’t expensive. The 4-year, $2.365M rookie deal he signed will go a long, long way.

As a player, Urschel showed promise, but he’s failed to build on his early momentum despite opportunities that have presented themselves, particularly during the 2016 season. Rookie Alex Lewis, 2013 6th-round pick Ryan Jensen and even journeyman Vlad Ducasse garnered more attention and favor over Urschel.

But given his bright future off the football field, you have to wonder why he remains on it. Why play such a violent game that has triggered traumatic brain injuries for many NFL alumni? Why would Urschel put that beautiful mind in harms way?

He claims to envy promising former San Francisco 49er linebacker Chris Borland’s willingness to walk away from the game and avoid permanent head injuries. Former teammate Eugene Monroe retired from the game before he sustained any debilitating injuries and to campaign for the benefits of cannabis over opioids as an effective manager of pain.

Yet Urschel remains in the game. Even his Mom has regularly urged her son to give up football. But the messages fail to resonate, primarily because Urschel likes to hit people.


“I play because I love the game. I love hitting people. There’s a rush you get when you go out on the field, lay everything on the line and physically dominate the player across from you. This is a feeling I’m (for lack of a better word) addicted to, and I’m hard-pressed to find anywhere else. My teammates, friends and family can attest to this: When I go too long without physical contact I’m not a pleasant person to be around.”


Of course, it’s Urschel’s life and he’s quite capable of making his own choices. But judging from his first three rather unimpressive seasons, maybe he should discover a new outlet to unleash his pent up desire for contact. It’s possible that he might not even be among the team’s Final 53 come September.

Perhaps his mother’s wish will then be forced upon him.

And then that beautiful mind can be preserved to do uncommonly great things off the field, that the common player couldn’t achieve on it.

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Tony Lombardi

About Tony Lombardi

Tony is 24×7 Networks, LLC’s founder (the parent of EutawStreetReport.com and RussellStreetReport.com) His work has been featured on various sports websites and he is a regular guest on 105.7 The Fan and he hosts “The Fanimal” also heard on 105.7 The Fan, Saturdays from 8-9AM. Among his favorite things in life are his wife, kids, family, friends, The Beatles, Breaking Bad, Gladiator, The Godfather, Guinness, orange crushes, meatballs and Key West, not necessarily in that order. Follow Tony on Twitter @RSRLombardi.

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