John Urschel, a Baltimore Ravens offensive lineman, has decided to retire from the NFL at the age of 26.
But it’s why he is retiring that is catching everyone’s attention: to pursue his PhD fulltime from MIT.
His decisions this week comes days after a new medical report indicated that chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) was found in nearly 99 percent of deceased NFL players’ brains that were donated to scientific research. Some are citing the study as the reason for Urschel’s decision to retire.
“Thank you everyone for their kind words today,” he wrote in a statement released via Twitter. “It wasn’t an easy decision, but I believe it was the right one for me.”
He added that he was looking forward to being a full time doctoral student at MIT, where has been a part-time student focusing on spectral graph theory, numerical linear algebra and machine learning. He is also engaged and a soon-to-be father.
Often called the smartest guy in the NFL, he is also part of a trend of young football players who are choosing to leave the sport early for other endeavors. Many cite potential brain injuries as their reason.
Urschel was expected to be the Ravens’ starting center during training camp, but chose to retire 90 minutes before they camp started. His coach John Harbaugh said he was suprirsed, but respected Urschel’s decision:
“He said he’s going to retire from football, [and] that was something that’s been on his mind for quite a while and throughout the offseason,” Harbaugh said. “That’s what he decided to do. We respect John tremendously.”