On July 26, John Urschel will report to Ravens training camp for a stretch of hard work and long days. In about two years, he'll defend his doctoral thesis in applied mathematics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. That also won't be easy.
But on Tuesday at Dundalk and Sollers Point Technical high schools, he faced what might be the most daunting challenge of his careers: Get a group of rising ninth-graders interested in the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and math).
Of course, he also had ice cream, which helped.
"Math doesn't just apply to the classroom, but it really shows up in so many different careers, even if you don't plan to be a scientist or an engineer or a mathematician," the fourth-year NFL offensive lineman said. "Even in something as simple as making ice cream, math comes up. And ice cream's a good thing to pick, because everyone likes it."
The Ravens' resident mathlete, as part of his partnership with Texas Instruments, gave the small class the inside scoop on how salt can affect the freezing point of substances. Afterward, students were treated to ice cream and time with Urschel. One even challenged him to a chess match. (The student lost, because Urschel is the rare lineman with "Chess career" as a section on his Wikipedia page.)
It all was a peek into the future. Urschel, who also taught math to a group of incoming freshmen at Franklin last year, hopes to one day work as a math professor, and he said it was important that kids realize, before it's too late, how math is hidden in a lot of life.
"When you're doing budgets, if they own a business, all these different things," he said. "Even when they're making little decisions about which gas station to go to."
The Ravens will have to make a decision on Urschel, too. The team returns just three starting offensive linemen from last season: Ronnie Stanley, Alex Lewis and Marshal Yanda. Lewis could play inside or swing out to right tackle.
At center, Urschel and Ryan Jensen split repetitions throughout organized team activities. Both could also play guard. James Hurst earned praise from the coaching staff throughout the offseason, but the right tackle has struggled some during games.
Urschel is entering the last year of his rookie contract, and the Ravens spent only one draft pick on an interior lineman, fifth-round draft pick Nico Siragusa. A good preseason would set Urschel up well for a breakthrough 2017 — he hasn't started more than seven games in any of his first three seasons in the NFL.
"I think competition is good," Urschel said. "It will definitely bring out the best in us, and we've got a lot of talented offensive linemen. We're going to have a young offensive line, but I think we've got a lot of potential."