Scouting the Bears
7:13 PM CST, February 23, 2013
Twelve minutes. Fifty questions. Go.
That's right, rookie. Sit down and grab a pencil. Weave your way through as many multiple choice questions as you can and turn in the test when the time is up.
The Wonderlic exam at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis doesn't measure a prospect's strength, speed or ability to play Cover-2. I know that. You know that. And the NFL knows that.
There are no drills done inside the testing room. You won't find cones laid out to measure change of direction speed or 225 pounds waiting to be tossed around on a worn bar in the bench press test.
A cold seat, a pencil and a clock await these kids when they take the Wonderlic.
But it's still a test. A tool. Another way for the league to grade these prospects when they are under stress and dropped into an adverse situation during the biggest job interview of their young lives.
Show us you can handle it. Show us you are willing to answer a series of questions under a strict time limit. Show us you can produce — in a different way.
That's the league's mentality with the Wonderlic Cognitive Ability Test, and another new test, the Player Assessment Tool (PAT), which is being administered this year to prospects in Indianapolis.
I took the Wonderlic at the 2000 combine. Everyone did. As a positional group, we sat down, were given directions, handed a test and the clock started.
Verbal, math and problem solving skills. A measure of intelligence. That's what they told us. Tick, tick, tick …
The atmosphere in that testing room? It was marginal — at best. Low whispers (even some laughter) and a general feel that this thing, this test, was kind of a waste of time to a couple of the guys in the room.
I get it. Most of these prospects look at the workouts, the drills, the 40-yard dash and the vertical jump as the keys to the combine. But if you look deeper, and really begin to understand the true value of this event, it is much, much more.
Everything is a test. Everything. That's the one piece of advice I would give to any rookie hopeful during their time in Indianapolis. Sit up straight, focus and go to work.
I remember meeting with the Giants and being handed a exam with 500-plus questions on it. It took forever to get through that test and the entire time I was trying to figure out its impact or its value on my draft stock.
"Would you rather wear a scarf or a coat?"
Huh? I still think about that question on the Giants' test. What did it mean? How did it judge my ability to break on the deep ball or fill in the run front? Is this a pass/fail type of thing?
And why am I taking another written exam when all I can think about is posting a sub 4.5 40?
Again, everything is a test.
It's not about the content on the written exams or the questions (some that are odd, challenging, confusing) that are thrown at you when you sit down in front of an NFL head coach during the team interviews.
No. The game that is played in Indianapolis is all about the process. The league wants to judge your character and your ability to respond like a pro when you are uncomfortable, nervous and maybe even a little scared.
It's all right to admit it. I was nervous sitting down with some of the top coaches in the game. Hey, I even had one team that asked me to talk with a priest while I was waiting my turn to see the head coach.
The combine isn't designed to be enjoyable for these guys. It's not a vacation. You want to be a pro ball player? Then show the league you can handle everything and anything they ask you to do.
This is a job now. And there are no scholarship dinners in Indianapolis at the NFL combine.
Special contributor Matt Bowen, who played at Glenbard West and Iowa, spent seven seasons in the NFL as a strong safety.
Copyright © 2014 Chicago Tribune Company, LLC