If you were an NFL player, what would you do in between games? Live the high life? Spend more time working out? The Baltimore Ravens' John Urschel does something decidedly geekier: co-author math papers. The offensive lineman recently helped publish details of a "cascadic multigrid algorithm for computing the Fiedler vector of graph Laplacians" (no, we don't get it either), which would be impressive for any aspiring mathematician -- let alone one who spends his days crushing rivals on the football field. This isn't his first such paper, but it's notable that he's keeping up his academic pursuits even after graduating from Penn State and joining the big leagues.
The publications aren't shocking if you know Urschel's history, mind you. As he explains, number-crunching and rough-and-tumble sports have been his passions for years. He may "love hitting people" for a living, but he also plays chess and conducts math research in his spare time. About his only major concern right now is that a nasty collision might put his studies to an end -- in other words, he'll likely keep up this seemingly contradictory lifestyle for as long as possible. Don't be surprised if the next discovery in machine learning (one of Urschel's fields of interest) comes from a human steamroller.
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