Taller players are better at being able to identify targets that are “in their middle-distance vision,”—about 20 yards away in football terms, according to Teng Leng Ooi, a professor of optometry at The Ohio State University. The study, which was published in Science Advances, found that taller athletes have advantages due to having better “spatial relations” and a “better perspective of the ground.”
"That could be because they've spent a lifetime of looking at the ground from a higher vantage point," Ooi said.
The study looked at 24 subjects, split evenly between tall (around 5'10") and short (around 5'), and had them predict the distance of targets in various settings, including in full light, pitch black, and dimly lit settings. The research found that even when the taller subjects were sitting and the shorter subjects were standing, the taller ones were still better at predicting the distance.
"Maybe taller athletes have advantages on the field, especially in sports such as tennis and football," she said.
While those findings are interesting when it comes to quarterbacks, there are some players that have bucked that trend in a big way in the NFL. According to USA Today, as of the 2015 season, 6’3” was the average height for quarterbacks in the league. So for our list, we looked at quarterbacks that have excelled in the league that were 6’0” or shorter—hardly short by the standards of this experiment or everyday life, but certainly on the shorter side for the typical NFL QB.
Here's a look at some of the quarterbacks that have kicked ass despite their short stature.
Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks
The Seattle Seahawks quarterback was one of the most accomplished college football players in the nation when he entered the 2012 NFL draft—Wilson led Wisconsin to the Rose Bowl, he combined to score over 120 total touchdowns in four years, and he completed 72 percent of his passes as senior. But Wilson was pegged as only a mid-round selection at best by many scouts. The main reason? His height. At 5’11”, many NFL evaluators felt that Wilson wasn’t tall enough to be a successful pro passer.
Boy, were they proven wrong.
After being taken in the third round by the Seahawks, Wilson went out and beat recent free agent signee Matt Flynn for the starting job, throwing 26 touchdown passes during the 2012 season to tie Peyton Manning’s rookie record. Wilson continued to succeed despite his lack of height, leading the Seahawks to a Super Bowl championship to become the shortest quarterback to win a title. The diminutive—but extremely athletic—quarterback set Seahawks franchise records in 2015 in passing yards in a season, passer rating, and passing touchdowns.
After setting school records at Purdue, Brees was projected to be a first round pick in the 2001 NFL Draft, but he slipped to the second round due to his 6’0” height—well below where most execs, scouts, and coaches want their quarterbacks to be. Brees got the last laugh on those guys: He beat out fellow "short quarterback" Doug Flutie for the Chargers starting job in 2002 and developed into a Pro Bowl signal-caller. After leaving San Diego, Brees landed in New Orleans, where he catapulted himself into the top echelon of quarterbacks in the league. The Texas native led the Saints to a Super Bowl victory in 2010 and went on to set numerous NFL records, including breaking Dan Marino’s record for the most passing yards in a season.
Flutie proved all the doubters about his height wrong during his lengthy football career—despite being 5’10” and 181 pounds, Flutie played professionally for two decades, including stints in the Canadian Football League and United States Football League along with the NFL. Flutie was a standout player at Boston College, winning the Heisman Trophy in 1984—the same year he took part in the famous Hail Mary play against Miami, considered one of the greatest plays in football history—but his height kept him from going straight to the NFL.
Flutie eventually found his way to the USFL before spending a few years in the NFL, but his first real success came in Canada. Flutie won three Grey Cup championships and six outstanding player awards during his time up North and that led to another chance in the NFL. after his short run in the 80s, Flutie spent another decade playing quarterback for the Buffalo Bills, San Diego Chargers, and New England Patriots before retiring in 2006 at the age of 43.
The 5’11” North Carolina native was a fantastic athlete during his playing days—in college he played both quarterback and defensive back for Duke—and he used that athleticism to put together a successful career in the NFL despite his lack of height. Jurgensen made five Pro Bowl teams during his career and led the league in passing yards five times, including a then-record 3,747 yards in the 1967 season. Jurgensen played for nearly 20 years in the NFL, finishing with a 82.62 career passer rating before being elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1983.The Most Incredible College Football Plays of the Millennium >>>
Fran Tarkenton, Minnesota Vikings, NY Giants
Tarkenton used his lack of height as an advantage during his NFL career—at 6’0”, he had the speed and the agility to scramble like a madman to make plays for the Minnesota Vikings and New York Giants. The former Georgia Bulldog was one of the first quarterbacks in the league to use scrambling as a primary weapon—something players at the position now use regularly on offense—rushing for over 3,500 yards during his lengthy 18-year career. Tarkenton won the NFL’s Most Valuable Player Award in 1975 and was voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1986.