Penn State's John Urschel crushes calculus off the field

Penn State's John Urschel graduated with a degree in mathematics and a perfect 4.0 GPA in just three years. He's also a 300-pound offensive guard for the school's football team with a chance to play in the NFL
Penn State's John Urschel graduated with a de... 02:33

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Strictly by the numbers -- 6 feet tall, 300 pounds, first team All Big Ten -- Penn State offensive guard John Urschel is exceptional.

But it's another set of numbers that elevate him to unique in the world of college football. 

Urschel graduated with a degree in mathematics in just three years, accumulating a perfect 4.0 GPA. He has since finished one master's degree and is working on a second.

John Urschel graduated with a degree in mathematics in just three years and accumulated a perfect 4.0 GPA. CBS News
He has as many academic publications to his name as varsity letters.

"I wouldn't say not very common among athletes, this is uncommon among graduate students," Urschel told CBS News. "I'm 22 and I have four papers."

Urschel credits his math background for his ability to analyze defenses and make quick decisions.

Penn State offensive guard John Urschel CBS News
Penn State head coach Bill O'Brien mostly marvels at a player who writes on topics like "Instabilities in the Sun-Jupiter-Asteroid Three Body Problem."

But sometimes, O'Brien just laughs.

"If you give him a percentage of how many times this team blitzes, he's wants to know the whole survey size and what games we looked at and how many numbers related," O'Brien told CBS News. "'John, just take it from us: They blitz a lot.'"

Urschel is just what the doctor ordered for Penn State, whose image was pummeled by the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal. The young player said he "absolutely" feels he has a responsibility to polish up the image of his university.

Head Coach Bill O'Brien CBS News
"I've really taken joy in being able to show people some of the great things Penn Staters are doing -- and that's something that I take very seriously."

Urschel plans to try the NFL, then tackle a Ph.D.

"People look at me and say that there's these two almost completely separate aspects of myself," he said. "But honestly, I'd say it all comes together and it all fits under the same letterhead of just hard work, dedication and a drive to be the best at what I do."

Not a bad foundation -- whatever field he's in, or on.

  • Jim Axelrod
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    Jim Axelrod is the chief investigative correspondent and senior national correspondent for CBS News, reporting for "CBS This Morning," "CBS Evening News," "CBS Sunday Morning" and other CBS News broadcasts.