MIT Reads presents "From the NFL to MIT: A conversation with Prof. John Urschel & Louisa Thomas (hybrid)"

Thursday, April 11, 2024 at 5:00pm to 7:30pm

Building 14, 14S-130 or online
160 MEMORIAL DR, Cambridge, MA 02139

For John Urschel, what began as an insatiable appetite for puzzles as a child developed into mastery of the elegant systems and rules of mathematics. By the time he was thirteen, Urschel was auditing a college-level calculus course. But when he joined his high school football team, a new interest began to eclipse the thrill he felt in the classroom. Against the odds, Urschel found a way to manage his double life as a scholar and an athlete. Weaving together two separate narratives, Urschel relives for us the most pivotal moments of his bifurcated life. Equally at home discussing Georg Cantor’s work on infinities and Bill Belichick’s playbook, Urschel reveals how each challenge—whether on the field or in the classroom—has brought him closer to understanding the two different halves of his own life, and how reason and emotion, the mind and the body, are always working together.

John Urschel is a former offensive lineman for the Baltimore Ravens and an assistant professor in Mathematics at MIT. He has a bachelor’s and master’s degree from Penn State and a PhD from MIT, all in mathematics. He was selected by the Baltimore Ravens in the fifth round of the 2014 NFL Draft, playing three seasons for the franchise. Urschel began work on his PhD while still with the Ravens.

Louisa Thomas is the author of Louisa: The Extraordinary Life of Mrs. Adams and Conscience: Two Soldiers, Two Pacifists, One Family — A Test of Will and Faith in World War I. She is a contributor at The New Yorker and a former writer and editor for Grantland. Her writing has appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The New York Times, Vogue, and other places.

John and Louisa live in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with their daughter.


This event is free and open to all, but you must pre-register.

  • For virtual registrants: URL will be emailed approximately one week before the event.
  • For in-person attendees: Refreshments will be served following the discussion.

Accessibility: Our events are enriched by your presence and we are committed to making them accessible. Please email to request an accommodation.

Discussion event: MIT community members are invited to join us for a small group discussion of Mind and Matter on Wednesday, April 17, 12-1pm, in The Nexus at Hayden Library. Registration is required and lunch will be provided.

This book was selected in collaboration with students enrolled in 21W.022, Writing and Experience: Reading and Writing Autobiography, a subject offered by Writing, Rhetoric, and Professional Communication (WRAP).

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