This NFL Player Is Better At Math Than You Are - InformationWeek

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3/24/2015
03:43 PM
David Wagner
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This NFL Player Is Better At Math Than You Are

NFL Player John Urschel is a great football player and a great mathematician.

Vegas Geeks: What Happens Here, Stays Here
Vegas Geeks: What Happens Here, Stays Here
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An NFL Player could totally do your job. Could you do his? John Urschel, a 6'3", 300-pound mountain of a man, plays guard for the Baltimore Ravens and just published his third peer-reviewed paper in a math journal. This one is called "A Cascadic Multigrid Algorithm for Computing the Fiedler Vector of Graph Laplacians."

Urschel is a regular researcher on numerical linear algebra, multigrid methods, spectral graph theory, and machine learning. He could also literally throw you, as he has competed in shot put and discus. Oh, and just for fun, he studied the orbits of asteroids and published a paper on that, too.

The first question I have is: What are you doing with your time? Why am I not writing any story about an IT pro playing football in his spare time? I'd even settle for alligator wrestling, or people wrestling, or at this point, world tiddlywinks champion. You're making us look bad.

Look at this guy:

He could destroy your data center with his bare hands, and then rebuild it just for fun with his bare hands. And he's gained weight (all muscle, I'm sure) since that picture was taken.

All kidding aside, Urschel is amazing. The dude drives around in an old hatchback and lives off less than $25,000 per year, despite having millions in the bank. He plays football, does math research in his "spare time," and also authors a column for the Players Tribune. He's written a very touching article on the fear of brain injury in football for someone as smart as he is.

[ Does anybody really know what time it is? This guy does. Read NTP's Fate Hinges On Father Time. ]

Another of Urschel's columns for the Players Tribune offers his views on the typical academic major chosen by college football players. The post serves to indict even academically inclined schools, such as Stanford, for what Urschel considers to be the fake education players receive while playing football. Urschel, for his part, earned both a BS and a Masters in math from Penn State. His article on how the transitive property applies to college football is fascinating, too.

Of course, I'm not really expecting you to play football. Not all of us are born to carry 300 lbs. Few of us are born to be math researchers, or study machine learning. I do believe that, right now, someone reading InformationWeek is just as awesome as Urschel. Maybe you're climbing Everest, or running a marathon in flip flops. Maybe you're running a cloud and also painting masterpieces.

InformationWeek's IT Life section is about all the life of an IT Pro. I'd like to know a little bit more about what you do in your life. It doesn't have to be as amazing as having an NFL career or publishing academic papers. Being a parent, or running a company on the side is just as amazing. I want to hear about you, or your colleagues, and the challenges you willingly accept that take you far beyond your day job. Tell me about it in the comments section below, or hit me up on Twitter @geekenddave. Tell your story. You might find it on InformationWeek. I'd love to talk more about all of what you amazing people do.

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David has been writing on business and technology for over 10 years and was most recently Managing Editor at Enterpriseefficiency.com. Before that he was an Assistant Editor at MIT Sloan Management Review, where he covered a wide range of business topics including IT, ... View Full Bio
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impactnow
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impactnow,
User Rank: Author
3/31/2015 | 1:07:55 PM
education and athletics a peaceful coexistence
It's a great story to share with you people are athletically inclined . So many feel that athletic skills overshadow academic capabilities . This is an excellent demonstration of how they can live together and prove successful for this man . I hope the story is more widely shared by football coaches with their young athletes across the country .
Kelly22
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Kelly22,
User Rank: Strategist
3/30/2015 | 12:50:36 PM
Re: Great story but...
@PaulS681 True, it would certainly be generous for this NFL pro/math whiz to donate his time and talent to his community. Regardless of whether or not he does, though, I think he still serves as an outstanding person for young athletes to look up to. Definitely more so than other pro athletes taking up space in today's headlines.
Kelly22
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Kelly22,
User Rank: Strategist
3/30/2015 | 10:59:01 AM
Re: Mathematicians' stereotype
@pedrogonzales also agree. It would be great to see the media highlight accomplishments like these instead of put the spotlight on all the alleged crimes that players commit.
Kelly22
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Kelly22,
User Rank: Strategist
3/26/2015 | 10:58:16 AM
Re: This NFL Player Is Better At Math Than You Are
@technocrati that sounds like a terrible person to work with! There's no good in stereotyping anybody, regardless of their profession or hobbies. Imagine where this NFL pro would be if he had a mentor like that... probably not in the position he is now, I would guess.
Kelly22
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Kelly22,
User Rank: Strategist
3/25/2015 | 4:24:14 PM
Re: This NFL Player Is Better At Math Than You Are
This is so cool. Agree that this guy can serve as a role model to both school-age kids and adults. There's no reason you can't be a sports pro/math genius, IT whiz/rockstar, surgeon/poker master, etc. I'd love to hear more about the fun hobbies in this audience!
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
3/25/2015 | 12:26:59 PM
Re: Doubly Blessed
@Gary_EL- Yes, I love that story, too. Sadly, now when anyone mentions Hedy Lamarr, all they think about is Harvey Korman in Blazing Saddles. "My mind is aglow with whirling, transient nodes of thought careening through a cosmic vapor of invention."
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
3/25/2015 | 12:22:34 PM
Re: That's awesome!
@glenbren- I suspect that is a valuable skill in the aerospace industry. Millions of lines of code to be checked and all of that. Or at least you can always flal back on a job as a court stenographer.
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
3/25/2015 | 12:21:24 PM
Re: Hidden talents
@whoopty- What is fire spinning? It sounds really cool.
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
3/24/2015 | 8:31:14 PM
Re: That's awesome!
@prgman2000- Well, the average NFL player lasts 4 years so probably not long. But it won't be for lack of trying. And I'm pretty sure he has something to fall back on.
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