Mind and Matter: A Life in Math and Football

John Urschel and Louisa Thomas. Penguin Press, $27 (256p) ISBN 978-0-7352-2486-5
Urschel, a former guard for the Baltimore Ravens, shares his lifelong attempts to reconcile math and football in his captivating memoir. Urschel recalls his childhood attraction to puzzles; they gave him a glimpse of a more logical and orderly world than the one in which he lived as the child of divorced parents. By middle school in Buffalo, N.Y., Urschel, bigger than many of his classmates, wanted to play football in order to fit in. While his lawyer mother encouraged him to develop his considerable intellectual abilities, his father, a surgeon, urged him to develop his football skills. In alternating chapters he recounts his pursuits in both: he enrolled at Penn State in 2010, where he played football and studied math. After graduating, he was drafted in 2014 by the Baltimore Ravens, with whom he played for three seasons; in 2016, he enrolled as a PhD candidate at MIT. Math, Urschel writes, “gives me a way of making sense of the world. It helps me see past the confusion of everyday life and glimpse the underlying structures of the universe.” Urschel’s brilliant memoir explores the challenges of making difficult choices and the rewards of following one’s passions in life. (May)
Reviewed on: 01/14/2019
Release date: 05/14/2019
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