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Thursday, March 5, 2009
T.O. saga a reminder that WRs are a different sort


Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

As the Terrell Owens saga takes another turn with his release by Dallas, I'm reminded of a fascinating psychological profile of wide receivers I stumbled across a few years ago.

The profile actually goes back way earlier than that, but it holds remarkably true. In 1973, Arnold J. Mandell worked as a team psychiatrist for the San Diego Chargers. Coach Harland Savard asked Mandell to come up with personality profiles for the different position groups.

Mandell took a unique approach. He collected handwriting samples from all the Chargers and the entire class of rookies around the league in 1973. He worked with a handwriting analyst and also observed players closely. Mandell came up with personality profiles for every position group and I can see some truths in every one of them.

But Mandell especially nailed it in his personality profile on wide receivers.

"The wide receiver is a very special human being," Mandell wrote. "He shares many features with actors and movie stars. He is narcissistic and vain and basically a loner."

Yeah, you never want to stereotype. But think about that a little bit. Every great wide receiver fits to some degree.

Owens, Chad Johnson, Randy Moss, Steve Smith, Joe Horn, Keyshawn Johnson? They've all got it. Think even further back to guys like Michael Irvin, Otis Taylor, Mark Clayton and Mark Duper. They had it, too. You can argue about guys like Marvin Harrison and Jerry Rice. But talk to people who've been around them and they'll tell you they've got a touch of the wide receiver traits, but they're just better at hiding them. It's also part of what makes them great.

"They love to be the center of attention," Mandell wrote. "They need to be noticed. They have an imperviousness in that they don't seem to mind criticism about being like that. All players want the respect of fellow players. Showing off usually is not an admired characteristic by most players, but by wide receivers it is very admired."

Heck, this profile also spills over to some tight ends. There must be something about catching passes. I remember covering tight endWesley Walls, who would sometimes get a little testy, even after a Carolina win, if he didn't feel he had enough passes thrown his way.

I wrote a lengthy story about Mandell's findings and the personalities of wide receivers back in 2006 when I was with The Charlotte Observer and it included Keyshawn Johnson basically agreeing that Mandell's profile was dead on. After extensive searching, I was unable to come up with a free link to that story, but I gave you the basics of it above.

I also was unable to come up with an active (and free) link to the sidebar I did to that story in which Mandell's findings about other positions were detailed. But I did find an archived version and I'll share with you here some quick excerpts of what Mandell's study said about all the positions:

DEFENSIVE ENDS

"Sloppy and casual about detail; relatively undisciplined; joy in attack; anti-social behavior with pride; joyful participation in needling humor."

DEFENSIVE TACKLES

"Unbridled wildness; sadistic joy in attacking structure; satirical humor; sloppy and casual about detail."

LINEBACKERS

"Good citizens, intelligent, killer impulses under control, will kill when given permission, not just for fun of it."

DEFENSIVE BACKS

"Hates structure, wants to destroy it. They do it more uninhibitedly up front; the farther back you get, the more guilty they are about it. May be lonely and alienated, even more depression-prone than linebackers."

WIDE RECEIVERS

"They are interested in looking pretty, being pretty. They are elegant, interpersonally isolated. Wide receivers don't group, they don't mob out. They are actors, uninflected about showing off, individualists, quite interested in their own welfare, their own appearance."

TIGHT ENDS

"The sum of the offensive line, but there's a lot of wide receiver in the tight end."

GUARDS

"Disciplined, tremendously interested in detail. Their anger is one of depression, stubbornness and persistence rather than violent outburst."

TACKLES

"Very much like the guard, but tends to be not quite as intellectual. Loyal, patient, honest and stubborn. Slower to anger and a little slower of thought and response."

CENTERS

"Intelligent, more volatile, affable and gregarious."

RUNNING BACKS

"Withdrawn and difficult to contact; anti-social and angry; paranoid and mistrustful; also playful."

QUARTERBACKS

"Has to perform fantastically well under pressure. Subtle nuances of anxiety and guilt have to be dampened out. Two dominant types are successful: the swashbuckling, don't-care people who are impulsive, grandiose, arrogant and limit-testers. And the hyper-religious, the calm of the believer, the chosen one."