A saucy female perspective on sports pop-culture

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Wonderlic to Wonder-boy

April 29, to Reggie Miller and Andre Agassi it’s their day to blow out birthday candles. In 1961 it was the debut of ABC’s Wide World of Sports. For 2006, April 29th will be marked as “Draft Day.” It’s the day all those bright-eyed and bushy-tailed college juniors and seniors have been daydreaming about since they walked off the bowl-game field. With all the hype surrounding draft prospects and the NFL’s recently-amended collective bargaining agreement, what if a rookie’s draft pick and starting salary were related to their intelligence as well as their talent?

Football players can list numerous dates in their past as capstones of their careers. Although their mothers could name many more, the first major highlight had to be National Signing Day when high school seniors sign letters of intent to their intended school. For most players, not only did this indicate that they were going to the next level of play, they earned a scholarship to their choice school so they could play football and earn their degree. That’s a pretty awesome reward. Of course, their scholarship was all dependant on their application to the school, including their SAT scores.

Fast forward three-to-four years and the next crowning-point would be making the decision to declare for the NFL draft. After spending several years honing their skills at the college level, these players have now decided that they want a new challenge and have chosen to enter the ranks of being a professional football player. Audios college scholarship, hello to NFL salaries, signing bonuses, and endorsement deals. Luckily for these guys, your college GPA or scores to the GRE or LSAT are not taken in to account when working out at the NFL combine…or are they?

Each winter, when draft prospects workout at the NFL combine, each are given a 50-question test known as “The Wonderlic.” This IQ test was invented by E.F. Wonderlic at Northwestern University in the 1930’s. It was administered to potential NFL draft picks in 1970 and became popular with the scouts and teams because it easily put a “number” to another form of performance, intelligence. The draftees have 12 minutes to take the test and rarely do any finish. A score of 10 equates to literacy; a score of 20 indicates an IQ of 100, and that’s considered average. In the history of the NFL and the Wonderlic, only one player has ever scored a perfect 50 and that was former Bengals punter, Pat McInally, a Harvard graduate. It has been rumored that one player has scored a “1” in the past, but what about the rumors of Vince Young and his first stab at the test, a score of “6?”

On average, QB draftees have scored a 24. In the past, some top NFL quarterbacks have run the gamut of Wonderlic scores. For example, Donovan McNabb reportedly scored a 12 in 1999. Ben Roethlisberger scored a 25 and was considerably lower than fellow top pick, Eli Manning, who reportedly scored a 39. To look back a little farther, Dan Marino supposedly scored a 14. So should your score really be of any concern when it comes to success and a signing bonus?

Eli Manning was the top draft pick in 2004, going to the New York Giants for a guaranteed $20 million over the following five years, and a total incentive package that could reach $54 million when it’s all said and done. Since his rookie season in 2004, Manning has gone 25-23 for the Giants, for 4,805 passing yards, 30 touchdowns, and 26 interceptions. That doesn’t seem too shabby for a Wonderlic score of 39. In contrast, Donovan McNabb is 94-88 with the Philadelphia Eagles for 19,433 passing yards, 134 touchdowns and 66 interceptions. Similar to Manning, McNabb nabbed himself a signing deal worth as much as $54 million with incentives, and that was in 1999! Of course McNabb has several years of experience and postseason play on Manning, but can the lower Wonderlic score affect your draft status or predict your success in pro play?

In 1999, Tim Couch (Wonderlic 22) was the number one pick over McNabb and by 2006 he no longer plays in the NFL. Roethlisberger (Wonderlic 25) was a lower pick than Manning, scored a lower signing deal, but won the 2006 Super Bowl by age 24. As it stands, Young was originally praised as the top-pick QB. With a score of 6, that means he only answered 12 percent of the questions correctly, but then he retook the test and scored a 16. Matt Leinart was rumored to have scored a 35 and Jay Cutler managed a dandy 26. So what does this mean? It means that on April 29, these three young men will march to the podium, wave their new team jerseys over their heads and be granted million-dollar keys to their castle, a key which many of us will never hold regardless of how smart or hardworking we are. Only time will tell which 2006 draftee will be the most successful in his professional career, but I’m sure people like Tim Couch are thankful that the most important gift they were ever given from football was a college degree so that when the NFL door slams shut in your face, you have something to fall back on.


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