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Monday, February 27, 2006
Taking your Wonderlics

By Jeff Merron
Special to Page 2

Editor's note: This column originally ran on February 28, 2002.

If the NFL draft is a meat market, the NFL draft combine is where the beef is weighed and measured. Beginning today in Indianapolis, and for several days, our future Sunday heroes will take a full physical, sit for X-rays, face an interview, bench press 225 pounds for show and dough, jump broadly and vertically, and run the 40.

David Carr
David Carr survived the test to become the No. 1 pick last year.
And, of course, they'll take the Wonderlic. (Click here, and you can take it, too.)

The Wonderlic is an IQ test with only 50 questions -- it's a short version of the longer test routinely given to kids. Players have just 12 minutes to take it, and most don't finish. But, in fact, the average NFL test-taker scores a little above average.

The first questions on the test are easy, but they get harder and harder.

An easy question: In the following set of words, which word is different from the others? 1) copper, 2) nickel, 3) aluminum, 4) wood, 5) bronze.

A tougher one: A rectangular bin, completely filled, holds 640 cubic feet of grain. If the bin is 8 feet wide and 10 feet long, how deep is it?

Some teams consider the test results critical. Others say they dismiss the results, except for players who score at the extremes. What's an extreme? Well, former Bengals punter and Harvard grad Pat McInally scored a perfect 50 -- the only NFL player known to do so -- while at least one player, it is rumored, scored a 1. Charlie Wonderlic Jr., president of Wonderlic Inc., says, "A score of 10 is literacy, that's about all we can say." If that's the case, more than a few pros are being delivered the Books-on-Tape version of the playbook.

But players scoring too high are also suspect. If a player is smart, his potential to be a smartass increases exponentially.

E.F. "Al" Wonderlic invented the test as a Northwestern grad student in the psychology department in the 1930s. The test was first given to potential NFL draft picks by a handful of teams in 1970, and it quickly became a popular combine tool because, like everything else at the predraft workout, it put a number on performance, and it did it quickly.

  Some teams consider the test results critical. Others say they dismiss the results, except for players who score at the extremes. What's an extreme? Well, former Bengals punter and Harvard grad Pat McInally scored a perfect 50 -- the only NFL player known to do so -- while at least one player, it is rumored, scored a 1. 
  

Each year, about 2.5 million job applicants, in every line of work, take the Wonderlic. The average NFL combiner scores about the same as the average applicant for any other job, a 21. A 20 indicates the test-taker has an IQ of 100, which is average.

Some people disagree with the whole idea of IQ testing because they believe the tests are culturally biased and inaccurate. But Charlie Wonderlic doesn't make grand claims for the score derived from his test. "What the score does is help match training methods with a player's ability," he says. "It could be a playbook -- what is the best way to teach a player a play? On the field, the higher the IQ, the greater the ability to understand and handle contingencies and make sound decisions on the fly."

In general, says Wonderlic, "The closer you are to the ball, the higher your score."

This assessment roughly corresponds to the averages revealed, according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, by an NFL personnel man in Paul Zimmerman's "The New Thinking man's Guide to Pro Football," which are:

Offensive tackles: 26
Centers: 25
Quarterbacks: 24
Guards: 23
Tight Ends: 22
Safeties: 19
Middle linebackers: 19
Cornerbacks: 18
Wide receivers: 17
Fullbacks: 17
Halfbacks: 16

The average scores in other professions look like this:

Chemist: 31
Programmer: 29
Newswriter: 26
Sales: 24
Bank teller: 22
Clerical Worker: 21
Security Guard: 17
Warehouse: 15

Ready to try your hand at it? Click here to take the test.

"Closer Look" will be a regular Page 2 feature, exploring a hot sports topic in greater detail.