"I recognize that this is somewhat irrational, but I am doing it," Urschel told HBO's "Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel" in an episode that aired Tuesday night. "It's more important to me that I'm able to do the two things I love. I don't know if people have really done things that I've done before. I don't know if they'll do it after me. But I enjoy carving out my own path and not listening to what people say I can and I can't do."
Urschel is pursuing his doctorate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the offseason, focusing on spectral graph theory, numerical linear algebra and machine learning. He was a backup offensive lineman this season, but he could emerge as Baltimore's starting center in 2017.
The dangers of damaging his brain is something Urschel has already experienced. In August 2015, he suffered a concussion when he went helmet-to-helmet with another player and was knocked unconscious.
"I think it hurt my ability to think well mathematically," Urschel said. "It took me about three weeks before I was football ready. It took me a little bit longer before my high-level visualizations ability came back."
Did this scare him?
"It was frustrating, more than anything," Urschel said. "I was trying to read advanced math papers and I was struggling."
Urschel was recently named to Forbes' "30 under 30" in the field of science. He has published six peer-reviewed mathematics papers to date and has three more ready for review.