NFL lineman — an MIT Ph.D candidate — retires day after brain study

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Baltimore Ravens lineman and math scholar John Urschel teaches a STEM lesson at Dundalk High School to launch Texas Instruments’ STEM Behind Cool Careers series on Tuesday, July 18, 2017 in Baltimore.
| Steve Ruark/AP

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Baltimore Ravens offensive lineman John Urschel has retired from the NFL after just three seasons.

Urschel, a former fifth round pick from Penn State in 2014, received notoriety for pursuing his doctorate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the offseason. He started 13 games over the past three seasons and was expected to compete for a starting role at center or guard. Instead, he will pursue other interests outside of football.

“This morning, John Urschel informed me of his decision to retire from football,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said in a statement Thursday. “We respect John and respect his decision. We appreciate his efforts over the past three years and wish him all the best in his future endeavors.”

In 2015, Urschel addressed the why he kept playing football despite the risks:

“Objectively, I shouldn’t,” he said on The Players’ Tribune. “I have a bright career ahead of me in mathematics. Beyond that, I have the means to make a good living and provide for my family, without playing football. I have no desire to try to accumulate $10 million in the bank; I already have more money in my bank account than I know what to do with. I drive a used hatchback Nissan Versa and live on less than $25k a year. It’s not because I’m frugal or trying to save for some big purchase, it’s because the things I love the most in this world (reading math, doing research, playing chess) are very, very inexpensive.”

Last year in a profile, NFL films called him “the smartest man in football.’’

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