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Editorial: The “Wonderful” Wonderlic

Right around this time every year, burgeoning college football players are setting up interviews, attending charity functions, performing at the NFL Scouting Combine and showcasing why they should be considered the next big thing until the NFL Draft. There are agencies out there that prepare, coach and mentor them for the exposure, the limelight and the glamour.

But there’s one thing that takes players back to their senior year of high school, an essential SAT for draft-eligible football players—the Wonderlic test.

The Wonderlic is an exam comprised of 50 questions. Players have 12 minutes to complete the test. The average score is 21 out of 50.

The top two picks in the 2012 draft were quarterbacks Andrew Luck of Stanford to the Indianapolis Colts and Robert Griffin III of Baylor to the Washington Redskins. They scored a 37 and 24 respectively.

Vince Young made headlines in 2006 when it was rumored that he scored a 6 (though he earned a 16 on his second attempt). On the other end of the spectrum that same year, Harvard graduate and Buffalo Bills QB Ryan Fitzpatrick scored a 50.

Some scores of other players include: Drew Bledsoe-37, Steve Young-33, John Elway-30, Dan Marino-16, Donovan McNabb-14, Hakeem Nicks-11 and Sebastian Janikowski-9.

If NFL success was based on this test alone, the Oakland Raiders’ Janikowski would not be considered the league’s best kicker, Nicks would not be becoming the star he is right now for the New York Giants and McNabb would not have played in three NFC Championship Games and one Super Bowl for the Philadelphia Eagles. Marino? Well, let’s just say this test is what it is…a test.

Here’s a sample question from the Wonderlic:

Ink sells for $12 per cartridge. What will six cartridges cost?

Answer: Does it matter?

High-level NFL execs will swear by it, coaches will applaud it and scouts will cite it…but in the end, can the player play?

Whether or not Dan Marino could tell me the answer is $72 is irrelevant. Can he tell me the difference between a Cover 2 (two safeties deep, seven-man defensive front) and a prevent (no deep passes) defense? Or can he identify the “Mike” linebacker (quarterback of the defense, essentially has free reign to blitz, spy or cover running back routes)?

I’m much more concerned with Luck’s ability to throw a 40-yard out route off his back foot and his awareness of a blitz than if he can tell me what the capital of Uganda is? Griffin needs to care more about eluding Dallas Cowboys linebacker DeMarcus Ware than if Billy, Johnny and Sara all have 20 pound bags of pasta and 20 pound bags of hair and figure out which weighs more.

Consider the following: I took a sample Wonderlic Test and scored a 35. Super Bowl MVP and Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger scored a 25 in 2004 before being drafted 10th overall.

I guess he should be writing columns and I should be throwing passes to Steelers’ receivers, right?

—RF