Michael Pravica didn’t even know who Marshawn Lynch was.
A Bears fan, but not a dedicated football watcher, the UNLV professor of physics was happy to oblige when sports website Bleacher Report called looking for an expert.
The company was filming the first episode of No Script, a web series on Facebook Watch starring Lynch, an Oakland Raiders running back. It’s part reality show, part Jackass (or MTV Sports if you’re old enough to remember Dan Cortese), with Lynch performing various stunts.
That episode brought Lynch and his crew to Las Vegas to drive Ferraris at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Pravica’s role was to explain the physics of racing to the man they call Beast Mode. Their exchange landed the professor a nickname he’ll be hearing in class for the near future — Lynch kept calling Pravica “Scientist” like it was his first name.
“I had no idea what I was getting into,” Pravica said. “He trashed a car before I got there. We had banter; we talked about the physics. Marshawn was interested. I think they liked that we had a good interaction.”
The Bleacher Report staff flew Pravica up to Oakland to surprise Lynch for a return engagement. That one went so well, they did a third. A third that involved liquid nitrogen.
Pravica froze a hamburger so Lynch could take a bat to it, making it explode into little pieces.
“We tested it first here at UNLV,” Pravica said. “Marshawn was fascinated. He was jumping up and down. We smashed a lock with a hammer that had been frozen. We did our thing, and he was like, ‘What do you do when you have liquid nitrogen left over?’ You just spill it on the ground. He yells, ‘Not on the J's [Air Jordans], Scientist!’”
The first video has racked up 1.4 million views and an outtake video featuring Pravica sits at 886,000, currently. The other two episodes in which Pravica appears haven’t yet been released. New episodes debut each Thursday.
Pravica showed the video to his students, who were fascinated that their professor knew the 10-year NFL back (and 2005 Las Vegas Bowl veteran). And it does give Pravica at least a little shot at becoming the next Bill Nye. But there were more pressing considerations at play.
“I'm glad that Marshawn asked for a scientist,” Pravica said. “In my heart, I have a special place for him. I think he probably in some small way is trying to promote science to his followers. If I can use that to get some small fraction excited and inspired by science and maybe come to UNLV, it's worth it.”
Of course, when the Raiders move to Las Vegas in 2020, he has a pretty good in for getting tickets, too.