(Gene J. Puskar / AP)

If all were right with the world, John Urschel would be everyone’s favorite NFL player.

The Baltimore Ravens’ offensive lineman is already a big deal, thanks to his love of math and the attention it has brought him from Rolling Stone, NPR, the New York Times and other outlets. For Forbes.com, he explained a paper he had written and titled, “A Cascadic Multigrid Algorithm for Computing the Fiedler Vector of Graph Laplacians.”


But there’s a less theoretical side to the former Penn State player’s love of cipherin’. He did the math and knows what he needs to live on. At a time when athletes with enormous contracts are going bankrupt, this 6-foot-3, 308-pounder is driving a Nissan Versa, preferably with heavy-duty shocks, and doing so proudly.

“It’s great on gas. It’s surprisingly spacious,” Urschel, who had a 4.0 GPA at Penn State, told ESPN. “And you know what the best feeling is? You’re driving into a parking deck, it’s near full and you’re on the first level and there is that space that everyone has passed because they said, ‘No, we can’t park in there.’ And I take my Versa and I just go right in there. I’m on the first level, parking lot full and everyone else is parking on the upper deck where the car is getting hot. I’m not even taking the stairs.”

[Shhhh…math genius at work on Ravens’ offensive line]

The car, purchased for $9,000, You might say he’s cheap, I say he’s smart and more people should live the way he does.

Urschel, a 2014 fifth-round draft pick who earned his master’s degree as a senior, made $564,000 in salary and bonuses last year, according to the Baltimore Sun. But only $144,000 of his $2.3 million rookie deal, which runs through 2017, is guaranteed, so he decided to live on $25,000 as a rookie in 2014 and took in a roommate.

[Redskins star Ryan Kerrigan has a roommate, too]

Urschel loves the game as much as he loves math and, despite being well-prepared for life after the game, wants to prolong his playing career even though he knows, as he wrote on the Players’ Tribune, that “playing a hitting position in the NFL can’t possibly help your long-term mental health.”

What my mother and a great majority of my friends, family, and fellow mathematicians don’t understand is that I’m not playing for the money. I’m not playing for some social status associated with being an elite athlete. No, the media has not brainwashed me into thinking this is what real men do.
I play because I love the game. I love hitting people. There’s a rush you get when you go out on the field, lay everything on the line and physically dominate the player across from you. This is a feeling I’m (for lack of a better word) addicted to, and I’m hard-pressed to find anywhere else. My teammates, friends and family can attest to this: When I go too long without physical contact I’m not a pleasant person to be around. This is why, every offseason, I train in kickboxing and wrestling in addition to my lifting, running and position-specific drill work. I’ve fallen in love with the sport of football and the physical contact associated with it.

And maybe, just maybe, he can make math cool and teach other pro athletes a thing or two about money.

“Kids look up to pro football players. They don’t really look up to the world’s top quantum physicists. … It’s the world we live in,” he told the Sun. “I might as well make use of this opportunity I have while I have it.”