Editor’s note: Penn State offensive lineman John Urschel will routinely provide a look at his journey leading to the NFL draft on May 8 in a series of diary entries. The all-Big Ten, third-team AP All-American has a Master’s degree in math and was awarded the William V. Campbell Trophy as college football’s top scholar-athlete. The 6-foot-3, 315-pound guard’s fourth entry gives a look at adapting to no longer being a student-athlete and what drew him to football.
It has been more than two weeks since the combine, and I have finally begun to settle in to my routine back at Penn State. I find that my experiences now are much different from when I was a student-athlete. I have more hours in the day than I know what to do with. I’ve found more time for my hobbies (such as chess and guitar) and, more importantly, devoted more time than I previously thought possible to the sport I love.
One of the most notable changes that I’ve experienced is not having classes or research. This is something I had a relatively tough time with to start, but I have replaced this with a new kind of research. Every day, I have been working to increase my football IQ. This doesn’t just include offensive line play, for which I believe myself fairly well versed, but football as a whole. I have recently found myself attempting to master defensive coverages and corresponding receiver route combinations which work best against them. This has been an enjoyable exercise, and given me a chance to combine my love of problem solving and strategy with football.
I have also taken this newly found free time to see family. I got to visit with my mother, who I had not seen since December. My mother has always been proud of my achievements. She cried when I won the Campbell Trophy, and is extremely proud that I am currently a semifinalist for the AAU Sullivan Award (feel free to vote for me at www.aausports.org/News/View-Story/artmid/1108/articleid/52405 ).
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However, she is not afraid to admit that she would rather me in a Ph.D. program than in the NFL. This is nothing new. She would have preferred me go to MIT for math than to Penn State for Division I football.
As a child, academics came first in my household. My mother would buy me math workbooks, often four to five grades above my level. I recall in middle school one summer I was bored, so my father took me to the local university and had me sit in on a Calculus course for business majors. Believe it or not, I aced the course and the majority of the students ended up coming to me for help! It wasn’t until freshman year in high school that I began playing football, but by the end of year I was in love with the sport. As a role model to young athletes, I stress the importance of academics, but since I began playing, football has trumped math in all of the major decisions of my life.
Every year at the end of the season, my mother reminded me that I didn’t have to play football, and that the past season could me my last. This has been going on for nine seasons now. Truth be told, I couldn’t let this sport go if I tried; I’m addicted. The longer into the offseason I go, the more anxious I get. Anxious for hitting, for physical contact. If it wasn’t for my MMA workouts in the afternoons, I don’t know how I would get all my aggression out. Football has many virtues, but for myself, I would say this is the greatest. It is a platform for me to get out all aggressive and physical behavior that is not socially acceptable outside of the gridiron.