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Penn State’s John Urschel is both teaching and taking collegiate courses while starring on the offensive line

Graham Watson
Dr. Saturday

It’s not uncommon for students to ogle athletes in their respective classes, but what about when one of those athletes is your teacher?

For undergrad students in Math 041, a course in trigonometry and analytic geometry, they have the opportunity to learn from John Urschel, a guard on the football team.

Urschel graduated in three years with a degree in mathematics and is currently in graduate school. He’s already published a 32-page paper titled, "Instabilities of the Sun-Jupiter-Asteroid Three Body Problem" in the online journal Celestial Mechanics and Dynamical Astronomy.

Um, wow. sat in on one of Urschel’s classes and watched him sculpt young minds. It was fascinating. Urschel was dressed in jeans and a T-shirt, not exactly professor attire, and was effortlessly teaching students the nuances of geometry while many tried to follow along.

Urschel used the blackboard and chalk for his lecture, and he worked from prepared handwritten notes. The Nittany Lion guard kept a two-way dialogue between the students for the entire duration of the class period. When he wrote something on the board, Urschel challenged the class to help him finish each problem before he moved on to the next problem.

At one point, Urschel joked, "You guys are too smart for me," as one student verbally completed a graph on the blackboard before Urschel had time to finish writing it.

It’s difficult enough to be a football player and maintain a 4.0 GPA, as Urschel, an All-Big Ten selection, has done throughout his time at Penn State, but to add lesson planning to that regimen is kind of miraculous.

I don’t know of many other football players who are both taking and teaching collegiate classes at the same time. Urschel should be commended for his dedication both on the football field and in the classroom.

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