Is That Your Final Answer? Draft Candidates Don't Become Millionaries until They Sweat out Psychological Tests
Oehser, John, The Florida Times Union
Things were going OK, for the most part. Erron Kinney had taken plenty of these psychological tests the NFL gives. Mostly painless, if a bit odd.
Then came THE question, as Kinney remembers:
"Do you like to wear dresses, lingerie?" Kinney, an ex-University of Florida tight end, said laughing. Here in the interview there was a pause, the follow-up question being obvious.
"No," he said, laughing again. "NO!"
Wondering how far the NFL goes these days to test character?
Their attitude toward women's underwear is just one of the questions aspiring draftees describe with rolled eyes and laughter. The April 15-16 NFL Draft is big business, but it's also inexact science with no part more inexact, controversial -- and, yes, more amusing -- than the psychological tests players undergo in the months before the biggest day of many of their lives.
"It's another thing you have to evaluate," Bengals coach Bruce Coslet said. "What we want to know is how fast they can learn, how much they can retain. It's not the overriding factor. It's just another factor, like a 40-yard dash, or can he catch the ball?
"I've seen some of the best-testing guys in the world who couldn't play football. It's a mix."
The NFL doesn't want good-testing guys who can't play, just guys who can. But in recent years, finding the best players has become more complex. Character, once an afterthought, became an issue and there came a need to gauge it. The problem was that, while ability can be seen on any VCR, the head and heart are trickier.
Enter psychological testing, but first, enter the Wonderlic.
The Wonderlic is the most well-known of the pre-draft tests, the score most often cited in stories on off-field issues regarding draftees. But the Wonderlic, widely implemented since the mid-1970s, is more a measure of intelligence and ability to mentally perform a skill.
Character, and how players will handle off-field issues, are different matters. In recent years, teams have increased emphasis on measuring those, too. The result, for draftees, is a winter spending nearly as much time answering questions as running 40-yard dashes.
"Some of the questions are downright ridiculous, but where they ask about background or how you respond when you're angry -- those are a necessary evil," Kinney said. "Even though a lot of guys might not give a full honest answer, you get a picture of a person. They've got to know whether you're going to walk away, or whether you're going to stand there and duke it out."
An average psychological test is no 10-minute, 30-question deal. The test given by the Giants, the most well-known and longest, is imitated by many teams. Infamous among NFL players, it has nearly 500 questions, mostly true/false, many of them memorable.
"They're trying to get at you in weird ways," said Travis Taylor, an ex-Ribault High School and ex-University of Florida receiver. "They're worded in ways I've never heard before. You're thinking, 'What does that have to do with what we're talking about? What does that have to do with football?'
"I guess they want to know what kind of person you are."
Taylor said he understands the reason for the process, even if the process is flawed. Because nearly every team wants to give every targeted player its own psychological test, pre-draft events such as the Scouting Combine and all-star games become tedious times spent behind closed doors, completing long, taxing questionnaires.
The Jaguars, for instance, give two psychological tests targeting character -- one similar to the Giants' test, Senior Vice President Michael Huyghue said -- in addition to the Wonderlic. Multiply those three by nearly 31 in the cases of the most high-profile players, and it's a lot of long days.
"They're not too bad in the morning, but when it's 11:30 or 12 and you're still answering the same questions, that gets a little nerve-racking," Taylor said. …