Mind and Matter: A Life in Math and Football

Mind and Matter: A Life in Math and Football Review

John Urschel, mathematician and former offensive lineman for the Baltimore Ravens--with biographer Louisa Thomas--tells the story of a life balanced between two passions

For John Urschel, what began as an insatiable appetite for puzzles as a child quickly evolved into mastery of the elegant systems and rules of mathematics. By the time he was thirteen, Urschel was auditing college-level calculus courses. But when he joined his high school football team, a new interest began to eclipse the thrill he once felt in the classroom. Football challenged Urschel in an entirely different way, and he became addicted to the physical contact of the sport. Accepting a scholarship to play football at Penn State, Urschel refused to sacrifice one passion for another, and simultaneously pursued his bachelor's and then master's degrees in mathematics. Against the odds, Urschel found a way to manage his double life as a scholar and an athlete, and so when he was drafted to the Baltimore Ravens, he enrolled in his PhD at MIT.

Weaving together two separate yet bound narratives, Urschel relives for us the most pivotal moments of his bifurcated life. He explains why, after Penn State was sanctioned for the acts of former coach Jerry Sandusky, he turned his back on offers from Ivy League universities and refused to abandon his team, and contends with his mother's repeated request, at the end of every season, that he quit the sport and pursue a career in rocket science. Perhaps most personally, he opens up about the correlation between football and CTE, and the risks he took for the game he loves. Equally at home with both Bernard Riemann's notion of infinity 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. He asks why, "So often, people want to divide the world into two. Matter and energy. Wave and particle. Athlete and mathematician. Why can't something be both?"

Title:Mind and Matter: A Life in Math and Football

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    Mind and Matter: A Life in Math and Football Reviews

  • Diane S ?

    A fascinating memoir, and a very different look at an NFL football player. For people who have the mistaken belief that professional sports figures can also have an intellectual bent, this book will s...

  • Brina

    From the time I realized that I needed another sport to watch to fill the months between baseball seasons, I have watched NFL football with a flaming passion. My son and I have a ritual where on Frida...

  • Robert

    An easy read save for the few technical math terms and concepts that can be for the most part glossed over as techno-babble without derailing the narrative, and wisely alternating short chapters to ke...

  • Skip

    An amazing and unique story. John Urshel grew up with two passions in life: football, which he discovered in high school, and math, which he discovered very young. His dedication and determination are...

  • Allen Adams

    https://www.themaineedge.com/sports/l...If I were to tell you that someone was a mathematician, you’d have some pretty specific ideas about who that person was. If were to tell you that someone was ...

  • Laura

    I like his introduction to calculus which begins with imagining a cannonball zooming by you at close range in what looks like a straight horizontal line. Back away far enough and you see that line is ...

  • Dolly

    I was thrilled to get an advance copy of this book and thought I might read a chapter or two on a cross-country flight, in between a nap and in-flight movie. To my surprise, I never put it down. I rea...

  • Danielle

    This is John Urschel's love story to both math and football. As I share one of these loves, it was refreshing to hear from someone so enthusiastic about math. His love started from exactly the same pl...

  • Pete Wung

    I read the bulk of this book, two hundred pages, in one sitting. It was so engrossing partly because of how well written this book is, the co-author, Louisa Thomas is a well known writer; and partly b...

  • George Girton

    In alternating chapters of Mind and Matter, John Urschel takes you through his life in mathematics and his life in football. As Sullivan Jones reads the book aloud for Audible, he completely becomes J...