Liccing My Wounds

April 22, 2001

Sensing that my stock wasn't rising in this weekend's NFL draft,
noticing that MEL KIPER JR. hasn't once appeared on my caller ID
and realizing that my 40 times were a little slower than a few
other so-called prospects, I put it all on the line. I agreed to
a Wonderlic.

A Wonderlic has nothing to do with a) White House interns, b) how
The Natural cleaned Wonderboy or c) a long-lasting treat for
deer. It's the intelligence test that NFL teams rely on to help
them decide on which players they're going to dump tuna boats
full of $100 bills. Every player at the scouting combine takes
the test, which lasts 12 minutes and consists of 50 questions,
each harder than the one before it.

I coerced the people at Wonderlic Inc., a personnel testing
company outside Chicago, into faxing me a copy of one of this
year's six NFL tests so I could try it at home. They agreed only
if I took the test under supervision and didn't give away the
questions. My wife, Linda, stood by with a stopwatch and a
spatula, in case I refused to stop.

I knew what I was up against. Only one person in 100,000 scores a
perfect 50. The only NFL player to do it was former Cincinnati
Bengals punter and Harvard grad Pat McInally, which explains why
he chose to be a punter and not, say, a punt returner.

The average score for an NFL prospect is 19. The average score
overall--hundreds of corporations use the Wonderlic--is 21. Last
year Iowa State running back Darren Davis reportedly scored a 4.
Now, of course, he's in Congress.

Teams aren't supposed to release the scores, but they're usually
leaked anyway. Among quarterbacks Brian Griese is said to have
scored a 39, Drew Bledsoe 37, Steve Young 33, John Elway 30, Troy
Aikman 29, Cade McNown 28, Mark Brunell 22, Tim Couch 22, Trent
Dilfer 22, Brett Favre 22, Daunte Culpepper 21, Vinny Testaverde
18, Dan Marino 16, Randall Cunningham 15 and Jeff George 10.
Kicker Sebastian Janikowski reportedly got a 9, though he offered
$500 to the test proctor to give him a 10. (Kidding.) This year
Florida quarterback Jesse Palmer is said to have scored a 32, and
TCU star running back LaDainian Tomlinson only had a 13. Anytime
your Wonderlic approaches your cleat size, it's not good.

I knew this was a risky career move. You can't rant and rave and
stomp your feet every week about how right you are and then let
people find out you really should be standing in an apron and a
paper hat, going, "Care to try the McSuperCheese today?" So when
Linda blew my coaching whistle six inches behind my right ear, I
began. I realized right away why many players coming out of
college suck on the Wonderlic. The questions aren't relevant.
They need to be more like....

You signed your contract last Thursday. Ethically, you can ask to
renegotiate a) when it expires, b) after a big year, c) the
Tuesday after next.

If Ray Lewis is in a Humvee limo going 95 mph and Rae Carruth is
in a Toyota going 105, how high will Court TV's ratings go?

Paul Tagliabue is a) the NFL commissioner, b) dead, c) a and b.

The test fax was difficult to read. I asked my proctor if she
would stop the clock and help me read one of the smudged
numbers, but she only glared and fingered the spatula. Sweating,
I was working on question 36 when the whistle about blew out my
tympanum. She snatched up the test and faxed my answers to
Wonderlic.

Ten minutes later two Wonderlic executives called back, on a
speaker phone, laughing. "You missed the first question!" they
roared. "We never see that!" The question was something like,
The second-to-last month of the year is... , and I'd answered,
October. Still, I scored a 29.

I pleaded my case on the one math question, which was impossible
to read because of the lousy fax, and they gave me credit for it,
which meant I'd scored 30. Plus, according to Wonderlic, I get an
age adjustment of two points because a 43-year-old's cognitive
processing is slower than a 21-year-old's. That's 32. Finally, I
gave myself one point for spatula stress--33.

All of which means, dear NFL scout, I would be a far better
quarterback than Marino or Elway and at least as good as Young.
I'm hearing the Cowboys might take me, now that Aikman's gone
and they're in the market for a savvy, wizened leader.

"You might just be watching your husband playing in the
Thanksgiving game this year," I said, satisfied.

"Great!" my wife said. "Would that be in October?"

COLOR PHOTO: DANA FINEMAN/SYGMA

Two Wonderlic executives called back, laughing. "You missed the
first question!" they roared. "We never see that!"

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)