Offensive lineman John Urschel with the Baltimore Ravens, who is an applied mathematics doctoral candidate, abruptly announced that he was retiring from the NFL on Thursday, just prior to the team’s first training camp practice with a full squad.
Urschel’s decision was made public by the Ravens and came only two days after a new study was released indicating that chronic encephalopathy or CTE had been found in close to 99% of the deceased players from the NFL that had their brains donated for research.
One source with the team, said that the decision by Urschel, who is 26, had been linked with the study’s results.
Ravens head coach John Harbaugh indicted that he was surprised at a phone call from Urschel 90 minutes prior to practice telling him that he was going to retire.
Harbaugh said the lineman explained why he decided to retire, but said he would leave it to Urschel to explain that himself.
Harbaugh would only say that Urschel had told him he was retiring and that he had thought about it for a while during the offseason.
Urschel has been studying for his doctorate during the offseason at Massachusetts Institute of Technology focusing on numerical linear algebra, machine learning and spectral graph theory.
Harbaugh said Urschel would have been competing for the starting center job with the Ravens during training camp.
During January, Urschel said on a Real Sports HBO episode that his passion to play football outweighed risks due to head trauma.
Back in August of 2015, Urschel suffered a concussion in a helmet to helmet hit with another NFL player and was knocked unconscious.
Urschel said that he thinks the hit hurt his ability to think mathematically and took nearly three weeks for him to be football ready and longer than that for his high-level visualizations ability to return.
Urschel recently was named to the “30 under 30” Forbes list for the field of science. To date, the former Ravens lineman has published a half dozen peer-reviewed mathematics papers and has another three ready to be reviewed.
Due to his unique abilities to play professional football and excel in math, Urschel appeared in a few national commercials including one with fellow NFL player J.J. Watt the All-Pro defensive end for the Houston Texans.