March 7, 2006

Wonderlic Score No Predictor of Success

Print More

Vince Young, you just keep amazing us. You single-handedly burned USC in the Rose Bowl, amassing 450 yards of total offense on your way to saving coach Mack Brown’s job. Now you go and try to pull a fast one on us, with rumors swirling that you scored a 6 or a 16, depending on the source you want to believe, on the famous Wonderlic test. Don’t give us naive northeasterners another reason to think that there is no intelligent life in Texas. A high ranking government official has already convinced us of that.

What is this Wonderlic test anyway? It sounds like some kind of contest that should be sponsored by Tootsie Pop. The famous test is composed of 50 questions and is administered to NFL prospects over a span of 12 minutes. It is said to measure intelligence and decision making under pressure. The questions, which increase in difficulty as the test progresses, are all multiple choice. Average scores in other professions include chemists at 31, newswriters with 26, bank tellers at 22, and security guards with 17. What is the average for an NFL player? A new gridiron star averages a 22.

So yes, a score of 6 (or even a 16) does not sound good. A score of 10 is considered to be the equivalent of literacy. But, Vince, don’t worry. We know you can read because you read the USC defense like a book.

Is it even necessary for players to take the test when only negatives such as poor test scores come out of it, thus dropping a player’s draft stock? It could realistically cost a player millions over a lifetime. Is it really necessary that a player know what the ninth month of the year is? Is it essential that he can determine where two trains will intersect if one leaves from Boston at 10:00 a.m. and another leaves New York City at 11:45 a.m.?

Probably not. All that matters is that Young can sprint like a gazelle on speed.

Good Wonderlic test scores don’t always translate into superb on-the-field performances. Just ask Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Marino or the Eagles’ leader Donovan McNabb, who scored a 13 and 12, respectively, on the exam. They turned out all right.

Rumors suggest that former Auburn running back Brent Fullwood scored a one on the exam in 1986. The lone point was awarded for writing in his name. People told Fullwood that he was mentally challenged and that he would never be able to learn new offensive schemes. The Packers’ playbook must have not been rocket science because all he did was get selected to the Pro Bowl in 1989.

The only perfect score on the test was recorded by Harvard’s Pat McInally, who took the exam in 1975. He was drafted in the fifth round that year by the Cincinnati Bengals to be the punter. The only other rumored perfect score was supposedly recorded by follow Crimson alum, Ryan Fitzpatrick, although official results say that he scored a 38 while finishing the exam in nine minutes, the fastest ever. Sounds like grade inflation applies to NFL exams as well.

If you look closely, high Wonderlic test scores don’t yield wins, either. The smartest team in the NFL last year was the St. Louis Rams, as was reported by The Wall Street Journal. The second and third smartest teams were the Oakland Raiders and the Tennessee Titans, and we know how awesome those teams were last season.

Vince, you might not be the smartest athlete in the draft, but guess what? You’re probably the best athlete in it next to Reggie Bush. You might be knocked down a few drafts spots. One thing, however, is for certain. Exam scores have never tested athletic ability and, when it comes right down to it, you score an A-plus on the field, the only place where it ultimately matters.

Tim Kuhls is a Sun Assistant Sports Editor. That’s Kuhls, Baby will appear every other Tuesday this semester.

Archived article by Tim Kuhls