CHICAGO -- Penn State offensive guard John Urschel acknowledged he felt a little nervous before his keynote speech, but the 307-pound graduate student spoke calmly and evenly at Thursday's Big Ten luncheon.
"I took a course in public speaking my sophomore year -- but, unfortunately for me, it was online," he said, drawing early laughs from a packed crowd.
Urschel opened his speech by recounting a conversation with an elderly mathematician, who talked about his career and what he wished he had done when he was younger. The All-Big Ten lineman used that as a platform to discuss his own four pieces of advice to young athletes:
1. Master your craft as a football player. "Become a student of the game, study film and develop yourself fully as a football player. Not all of us will become great college football players, but if we fail in that respect, it should not be due to lack of commitment and discipline. The road to greatness is filled with distractions. We're constantly told how good we are. It's easy for a young player to fall into the comfortable lull of complacency."
2. Make a mark on your community. "At some point in every man's career, you begin to think how you're going to be remembered. I truly believe in leaving this world a little better than we found it, whether it's through community service, outreach programs or charity work. Don't limit yourself to the stereotypes that media has created for you. Don't listen to what the outside world tells you of what football players are supposed to do. Aspire to do something greater."
3. Help the young players that follow in your footsteps. "As we near the conclusion of our collegiate careers, we cannot forget to bring the next group of football players along -- to continue to ... mold young boys into men. ... It is our responsibility to share our experiences of success and failure."
4. Prepare for the day your football career ends. "It's the most important of the goals but the easiest to look past. ... Some of us will become coaches or sportscasters, and some of us will leave the game altogether, carrying the lessons learned to our respective careers. What we cannot afford is not to grow. To do so would be to succumb to the thought that we only know how to do one thing. And for any of us to accept such an idea is nothing short of tragedy. In each of us lies great talent that lies far beyond the exploits of the gridiron. Our hope is much more than the sum of our physical parts."
Urschel, who is pursuing his second master's degree, joked in the beginning that he wasn't as eloquent as former speaker Kirk Cousins or as charismatic as last year's speaker, Denard Robinson. Urschel received applause after every bit of advice, however, and he was met with a standing ovation to end his speech.