P (NFL ∪ Math) > 0
John Urschel is an offensive lineman for the Baltimore Ravens and admits, “I love hitting people.” As it turns out, he loves hitting the books, too. He earned a masters degree in mathematics from Penn State, and he recently published a paper with the impressive title A Cascadic Multigrid Algorithm for Computing the Fiedler Vector of Graph Laplacians in the Journal for Computational Mathematics.
Note that Urschel was the lead author, even though his three co-authors were an associate math professor from Tufts and two math professors from Penn State.
I have to wonder if the paper was fairly refereed. I mean, honestly, who in the math community is gonna tell a 6’3″, 308‑pound football player that he made an error?
A la Paul Erdös, Urschel doesn’t need much to be happy. In an essay published March 18, he wrote:
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.
I was thinking about how Urschel has superior talent in two fields, when I saw this comment on an article on Deadspin:
Here’s the thing.
There are 1,596 players in the National Football League at any given time (32 teams with 53 players each). Throw in a few more who serve on practice squads and occasionally get a chance when someone else gets hurt, so maybe that number climbs to 2,000. Still, the chance of making it to the NFL is unbelievably remote. Recruit 757 claims that only 0.008% of all high school athletes get drafted by the NFL.
And if you can believe Wolfram Alpha, there are 2,770 mathematicians in the United States, or approximately 1/47,165 of the U.S. workforce.
Point is, the probability of becoming either a professional football player or a mathematician is ridiculously small. Becoming both is smaller still. Though John Urschel proved it’s greater than 0. The saving grace is that he seems like a down-to-earth guy who realizes how lucky he is.
To read a math article written by John Urschel, check out 1 in 600 Billion.