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NFL math whiz John Urschel retires aged 26

In a statement released by the team, Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said Urschel had informed him of the decision Thursday morning.

"We respect John and respect his decision," Harbaugh said. "We appreciate his efforts over the past three years and wish him all the best in his future endeavors."

He earned Bachelor's and Master's degrees in mathematics from Penn State and is currently working on his PhD at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), studying spectral graph theory, numerical linear algebra and machine learning.

Urschel, listed in the Ravens team bio at 6 feet, 3 inches and 300 pounds, played college football at Penn State and was selected by the Ravens in the fifth round (175th overall) of the 2014 NFL Draft.

His retirement comes in the week a study published in the medical journal JAMA revealed that chronic traumatic encephalopathy, known as CTE, was found in 99% of deceased NFL players' brains that were donated to scientific research.

Urschel frequently wrote for the website The Players Tribune last season, focusing on math, statistics, football and player health and safety.

In the wake of Chris Borland's sudden retirement, aged 24, in 2015 -- the former San Francisco 49ers player cited concerns over the long-term effects of repetitive head trauma -- Urschel wrote an article entitled 'Why I Still Play Football.'

"Objectively, I shouldn't," he wrote. "I have a bright career ahead of me in mathematics.

"I have the means to make a good living and provide for my family, without playing football.

"I have no desire to try to accumulate $10 million in the bank; I already have more money in my bank account than I know what to do with."

He continued: "I play because I love the game. I love hitting people. There's a rush you get when you go out on the field, lay everything on the line and physically dominate the player across from you. This is a feeling I'm (for lack of a better word) addicted to, and I'm hard-pressed to find anywhere else."

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Urschel, who is from Buffalo, New York, played in all 16 of the Ravens' games last season, starting seven at center. He has yet to give a reason for his decision.

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