Urschel Completely Focused on Football

Penn State standout is anxious to show off his athletic skills at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis this week.

INDIANAPOLIS -- Former Penn State guard John Urschel never dreamed of playing in the NFL when he was a youngster growing up in upstate New York.

Heck, even after he enrolled at Penn State, he had more important things on his mind in the early going.

“When I was playing in college I didn't really focus on the NFL. I'm very short-sighted,” Urschel said Thursday on the opening day of the NFL Scouting Combine. “I think that's one of my better qualities.

“I don't look too far into the future. I just take care of what is in front of me.”

Urschel's way of thinking finally changed prior to the start of last season.

“I did realize going into my senior year some people started talking about draft boards,” he said. “It looked like I could seriously play in the NFL. I always had aspirations to, obviously, but it was at that point that I realized I was a good prospect.

“I'm the type of guy I don't care what I'm doing here. I'm doing everything 110 percent. I don't care if it's a high correlation, low correlation, no correlation. I'm giving it 100 percent on everything.”

Urschel, 6-foot-3, 315 pounds, earned a degree in math at Penn State in three years and a Masters in one en route to becoming the first Penn State player to earn the prestigious William V. Campbell Trophy, regarded as college football's academic Heisman.

He also was a two-time All-Big Ten pick and was named a third-team All-American this past season.

“I'm an aggressive guy,” said Urschel, one of 15 guards invited to the NFL Combine. “I like getting after defensive linemen. That's why I play the game. I love hitting people.”

Urschel, who figures to do well on the Wonderlic IQ test, said he has met informally with a number of NFL teams since arriving at Lucas Oil Stadium, but he wouldn't divulge which ones.

He is projected as a late-round draft pick in May.

“Man, I'm excited to just focus on football 100 percent (now) and just immerse myself in it to see how much better I can be when I have 100 percent of my focus on football and I don't have to worry about academics,” Urschel said.

“That's going to mean the world to me. That will be a huge accomplishment for me (if I get drafted), but that's just the start of my pro football career.

“There's lots to follow that, but that'll be a good start.”

Urschel believes part of the job description for being a pro involves being a role model.

“It's a common misconception that to be a professional football player you just have to be athletic,” he said. “You have to be intelligent, as well, especially at the offensive line position.

“There are a lot of mental things that go into this game that kids just don't understand when they started playing the game at a young age.”

Urschel credited former Penn State coach Bill O'Brien, who left earlier this year to become head coach of the Houston Texans, with helping keep the Nittany Lions' program together while dealing with heavy NCAA sanctions.

Penn State was 15-9 in O'Brien's two seasons.

“He was crucial -- extremely, extremely important,” Urschel said. “We would not have been as successful without him. He obviously brought the New England offense to Penn State and it really served me well, helping with my football IQ and recognizing defenses, my knowledge of different things on offense.”

Urschel looks back fondly on his time at Penn State.

“I truly enjoy math and I really love football. I had a great time at Penn State,” he said. “I loved every single minute of it and it never felt like work to me.”

Urschel said he bumped into former teammate Anthony Fera, who transferred to Texas two years ago in wake of the sanctions, at the East-West Shrine Game. And they duo met again for breakfast Thursday morning at the Combine.

“He's a good buddy of mine, of course,” Urschel said. “No hard feelings. I haven't seen (USC transfer) Silas (Redd) yet, but I'll catch up with him (here) at some point.”

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