Riders’ QB Isaac Harker is Wonderlic genius, bribed sister with Dunkin’ Donuts to help study playbook

Photo courtesy: Scott Grant/CFLPhotoArchive.com

Saskatchewan Roughriders’ backup Isaac Harker is a remarkably intelligent person on and off the football field.

“He’s pretty darn smart,” said head coach Craig Dickenson in a videoconference. “We had a minicamp three years ago and he was there and he scored a 44 or a 45 on the Wonderlic, which is a very high score. He’s one of the smartest guys I’ve been around — very intelligent and very thoughtful in how he thinks about things.

“He’s got wisdom to him that is a little bit beyond his years. He’s a very intelligent quarterback and what he’s done this last off-season is he’s gotten stronger and more athletic, so I’ve been really pleased with Isaac. I was really pleased seeing him come in — his body’s changed, he looks bigger and stronger than he was in 2019 and he’s just as smart.”

The Wonderlic is a standard test that is used to determine the cognitive and problem-solving abilities of those taking it. Participants are given 12 minutes to answer 50 questions, challenging them to process information quickly.

The NFL has had draft prospects complete the Wonderlic test for decades. According to Test Guide, the average score of NFL prospects by position is as follows.

  • Offensive tackle: 26
  • Center: 25
  • Quarterback: 24
  • Guard: 23
  • Tight end: 22
  • Safety: 19
  • Linebacker: 19
  • Cornerback: 18
  • Wide receiver:17
  • Fullback: 17
  • Halfback: 16

The only player ever to record a perfect score of 50 heading into the NFL draft was Harvard punter Pat McInally, who played for the Cincinnati Bengals from 1975-85. Someone with an average-level IQ of 100 would score approximately 23 on the Wonderlic, while someone with a Mensa-level IQ of 130 should get around 38.

Harker spent the off-season training hard, bribing his sister, Tori, with fast food coffee to help him study the playbook.

“For every couple hours of playbook study and help, I would have to get her Dunkin’ Donuts coffee,” said Harker with a chuckle. “She was really critical in my off-season work and I’d put together a spreadsheet that would have the different calls for each play depending on the left and right hash.”

Things eventually developed to the point that Tori would call out variations of each play, which forced her brother to identify hot routes, protection checks, and numerous other details that quarterbacks need to memorize.

“She probably knows the offence as well as anyone,” said Harker with a smile.

Once you learn his backstory, it’s not surprising that Harker scored so high on the Wonderlic. The native of Lebanon, Ind. was named valedictorian in high school and earned a Master’s degree in mineral and energy economics by age 23.

Harker’s Wonderlic score is off the charts, but it’s not quite the best that Dickenson’s seen through his 25-year coaching career.

“The only score I’ve ever seen that was higher — and he’ll be disappointed I said that — we had the punter/kicker from Calgary, Johnny Marks, who we had about five years ago. I think he got 46,” said Dickenson. “He ended up going into nuclear engineering or something.”

Marks was a third-round pick of the Riders in 2014 following a remarkable career with the Calgary Dinos. He appeared in one career CFL game in 2016 during which he connected on three-of-four field goal attempts. His Wikipedia page confirms that he now works at Canada’s largest nuclear facility, saying he transitioned “from splitting the uprights to splitting atoms.”

Dickenson also revealed that offensive coordinator Jason Maas scored remarkably high on the Wonderlic with a 43, which was corroborated by FootballIQScore.com. He himself scored a 33 or 34, which he downplayed as unimpressive despite it being well above average.

“I was fine,” said Dickenson. “I was always a B student, but until you actually take it (the Wonderlic), it’s easy to make judgements. I challenge every coach to take it and the next time you tell someone he’s not very smart, you’ll think twice about what your score was.”

John Hodge is a Canadian football reporter based in Winnipeg.