You’re an NFL General Manager of a team coming off of a 1-15 season and have the #1 overall pick. You desperately need a franchise quarterback. Who do you take?

Player A:

  • 6’4″ 211 lbs.
  • 5.28 40-yard dash
  • 24.5 inch vertical
  • Not the strongest or fastest, but throws the ball with accuracy.

Player B:

  • 6’6″ 270 lbs.
  • 4.73 40-yard dash
  • 34.5 inch vertical
  • Freakishly athletic, strongest arm in all of college football.

 

Of course every GM would be salivating over Player B–who, funny enough, actually ended up being the #1 overall pick in the 2007 NFL Draft and signed a 6 year, $61 million contract. Player B is Jamarcus Russell, who was out of the NFL by 2009 with 18 career touchdowns and 23 interceptions. He is known as one of the biggest busts in NFL Draft history.

Player A is future Hall-of-Famer, Tom Brady.

Tom Brady is obviously not going to beat a team with his legs and by trucking over linebackers, but he will beat you with his mind. No, he doesn’t have Jedi Powers (although that hasn’t been confirmed). But, he does have an incredible memory–during crunch time, he has the ability to recall things that he watched on film earlier in the week or that he noticed earlier in the game. For example, in Super Bowl 49, Tom overthrew Julian Edelman on an Out-Route early in the game. Edelman was wide open. In the 4th Quarter with the season on the line, Tom remembered that the cornerback covering Edelman had difficulty covering that specific route. Tom ended up throwing a perfect pass to Julian for the go-ahead touchdown and the Patriots would go on to win the Super Bowl..but not without some help (See Blog Post: Mental Preparation: 7 Reasons Why Malcolm Butler Saved the Patriots).

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Tom also has the ability to process dynamic visual scenes, which is crucial when reading a defense and trying to determine which receiver to throw to amidst the chaos of cornerbacks and linebackers in coverage…while also trying to avoid 6’5″+/300+ lb men who are specifically getting paid (millions of dollars) to prevent the opposing quarterback from doing his job. (http://www.nature.com/articles/srep01154)

The abilities to recall and process dynamic visual scenes are both vital for success in every sport. Whether you’re a point guard trying to call a play and navigate a defense while simultaneously dribbling and being pressured by a relentless defender, or a tennis player towards the end of a match trying to track a ball being served over 100 mph, and then strategically returning the serve based on your recall of your opponent’s weaknesses.

Successful athletes at every level are strong, fast, quick, and agile– but the aspect of their game that separates superstars like Tom Brady, Steph Curry, & Serena Williams from the pack is their exceptional cognitive abilities.