January 16, 2009
The Wall Street Journal Reports.
While they’re not over yet, this year’s National Football League playoffs have already produced one spectacle for the ages: the remarkable ability of Arizona Cardinals’ wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald to pluck passes out of the sky.
But after 20 years of studying the eyes of elite athletes, and after taking into account two unusual opportunities Mr. Fitzgerald had as a child, one prominent researcher believes his catching talent has less to do with his hands and feet than his eyes and brain. The two catalysts for Mr. Fitzgerald’s success may, in fact, be his stint as a teenage ballboy for the Minnesota Vikings and the summer days he spent
at his grandfather’s optometry clinic.
Joan Vickers, a cognitive psychologist at the University of Calgary, studies the eye movements of elite hockey goaltenders, baseball hitters, and tennis and volleyball players by having them play while wearing special goggles equipped with cameras that film their eyes. After watching Mr. Fitzgerald’s 166-yard performance against the Carolina Panthers last week on television, she believes his talent reflects a mastery of two cognitive skills she has observed — one called “the quiet eye” and another known as “predictive control.”