Smart Talk with Urschel & Co.

Is the Penn State guard's football prowess being overshadowed by his academic success? We asked Urschel, coach Bill O'Brien and others. A video is included.

CHICAGO -- Penn State guard John Urschel receives plenty of recognition for his work in the classroom. The senior Academic All-American has already earned a master's degree in math and actually teaches classes at PSU.

And at Big Ten Media Days here this week, he is being asked to speak on behalf of the conference players at the lavish Kickoff Luncheon Thursday.

Yet for all of the talk about Urschel's academic prowess, his work on the field might be overlooked. Folks seem to forget he was a first-team All-Big Ten pick last season.

“It's true that sometimes his academics are such a big part of his story that you overlook the football end of it,” PSU coach Bill O'Brien said. “He's really good and one of our best players.”

“To some degree people forget I'm a football player -- and that stands on its own, my talents as a football player,” Urschel added. “People get wrapped up in the math, the math genius thing. But I do play football, too, and I'm very serious about it.”

Linebacker Glenn Carson gets why Urschel is so well known for his academics.

“He's the smartest guy I ever met,” Carson said. “If you're trying to get help with simple math problems, it's almost pointless to go to him because he's on such another level. It's so hard to understand what the guy is talking about when it comes to math.”

At the same time, Carson acknowledged that Urschel is a special player, too.

“He's a great athlete,” Carson said. “The kid's obviously blessed with a great brain and great physical attributes. … It's really surprising that someone can be so smart and so athletic at the same time.”

“When you have a guy who is such a good student, a lot of times that doesn't correlate to being a good football player,” O'Brien added. “But here's a guy who is an All-Big Ten guard, which in this conference is a big deal. He's an excellent football player. He can play all three inside spots. He could probably play tackle for us if he had do. And he's going to have a shot to go play pro football. And he's a mathematician.”

Once his PSU career wraps following the 2013 season, Urschel will have plenty of choices to make. He can further his academic career. Or he can focus in on playing in the NFL.

Is there a decision to be made there?

“There is no decision to make,” he answered. “I'll be playing pro football, if they'll have me.”

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