CHICAGO — Penn State senior linebacker Glenn Carson expected nothing short of a informative and motivational speech.
His teammate, John Urschel, was giving the keynote address on behalf of the players at the Big Ten Kickoff Luncheon later that day.
Urschel, a 2009 Canisius High graduate, doesn’t shy away from breaking the mold of the typical offensive lineman.
In his fifth season, the first-team All-Big Ten guard and first-team CoSIDA Academic All-American graduated in three years with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics, received his master’s in math in his fourth year and currently is working on his second master’s in math education — all while maintaining a 4.0 average.
In the spring semester, Urschel taught a section of Math 041 — an undergraduate Trigonometry and Analytic Geometry course at Penn State three days a week. Urschel had a paper published earlier this year in the journal, Celestial Mechanics and Dynamical Astronomy.
“He’s really motivated,” Carson said of Urschel. “He loves Math. He’s kind of inspiring. If somebody can get that into Mathematics and school, then there’s no reason why anyone shouldn’t be able to pass a class and stay eligible. He’s not your typical football player. Sometimes he’s so smart for his own good that he has trouble understanding really simple concepts.”
Urschel, a former All-WNY player and Trench Trophy winner, quickly brought the nearly 2,000 fans, coaches and players to laughter in the opening minute of his speech Thursday.
“I took a course in public speaking in my sophomore year, but fortunately for me it was online,” Urschel said.
Urschel, much like his background, took a different stance than the two previous keynote speakers. Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson gave an emotional speech detailing his rough upbringing in 2011. Michigan State quarterback Kirk Cousins elected to focus on several issues in college football last year, including the need to be a role model.
But Urschel centered his six-minute speech on four topics.
“There should be four goals: to master your craft as a football player; to make your mark in your community; to help the young players that follow in your footsteps; and to prepare for the day that your football career ends,” Urschel said.
The 22-year-old Urschel, who started all 12 games at right guard last year, closed his speech with a plea for football players to break traditional stereotypes.
“At some point in every man’s career, you begin to think about how you will be remembered,” Urschel said. “I truly believe in leaving this world a little better than when you found it, whether its through community service or outreach programs or charity programs. Don’t limit yourself to the stereotypes the media has created for you. Don’t listen to what the outside world tells you what football players are supposed to do. Aspire for something greater.”
As the anchor on Penn State’s offensive line, Urschel talked about his own legacy at Penn State during the one-on-one roundtable media sessions before the luncheon. Urschel was recently named to the Outland and Rotary Lombardi watch lists.
The Nittany Lions finished with an 8-4 mark last year, exceeding expectations after a troubling period that included the Jerry Sandusky scandal and the death of icon Joe Paterno.
“We’ve all moved on and we’re excited about the upcoming season and making our mark at Penn State,” he said. “We’re hoping to build on last year’s success.”