Total recall? Mel Kiper Jr. has a really good memory of Dave Wyman
“Freakish” is one of those words heard during NFL draft season, used by analysts to describe the almost superhuman athleticism of some of the top prospects.
ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. is one of those analysts – considered the foremost in the industry – and he happens to have a freakish ability of his own: his recall. That became evident earlier this week when Kiper joined 710 ESPN Seattle’s “Danny, Dave and Moore” and seemingly effortlessly reached into his extensive memory bank while reminiscing about Dave Wyman’s career at Stanford.
That was three decades and thousands of draft prospects ago, mind you. Yet Kiper remembered it well enough to recall Wyman’s jersey number (92) and how Wyman was one of the players pictured on the back cover of Kiper’s annual draft guide in 1987. And that was only the beginning.
Asked later in the interview what else he remembers about Wyman, Kiper shared a precise and comprehensive recollection about the knee injury he sustained in college, right down to the names of two of the players involved in the play on which it occurred. Those are the types of details that would fade from an average person’s memory at some point over 30 years, but apparently not Kiper’s.
“Dave had to come back from a very serious injury. I think it was Vance – wasn’t it Vance Johnson that blocked you, Dave?” Kiper said to Wyman, who was almost in disbelief. “You were chasing Arizona quarterback Alfred Jenkins … You tore everything imaginable and you had to go through a long rehab. And at that time, rehabs for those types of injuries were almost career-ending. So you came back from that. I said you were probably one of the most courageous players in college football to come back from that, get back to a high level and become a second-round draft choice, and come back and have that great year at Stanford like you did.”
In order to appreciate the detail of Kiper’s recollection of Wyman and his injury, you have to consider the number of players he’s scouted over his career. Let’s do the math. Wyman’s injury occurred during the 1984 season. More than 8,000 players have been drafted since then, and that total doesn’t include a) the hundreds of undrafted players Kiper has scouted each year; b) this year’s crop of prospects; and c) all the players he scouted before that 1985 draft. Add it all up, and 15,000 is probably a conservative estimate as to the number of players Kiper has familiarized himself with over the years. And he was able to rattle off details about one of them – from 30 years ago – as though he was reading straight from his scouting report.
Now, you may wonder whether Kiper might have actually peaked at that scouting report in an attempt to bone up Wyman’s career before joining the show. It’s possible but doesn’t seem likely when you take a few things into account. Kiper wasn’t informed that Wyman was a member of the show until the interview was booked earlier that morning, and as soon as he was – according to producer Jessamyn McIntyre – he instantly recalled Wyman’s jersey number. The rest of Kiper’s day was filled with television and radio hits until his appearance on 710 ESPN Seattle that evening, which probably wouldn’t have left much time to dig up a 30-year-old scouting report. Even then, what would compel him to do so?
More likely is that Kiper knew it from memory – his freakishly sharp memory.