Wednesday afternoon saw the hotly-anticipated release of the cover for the 2023 edition of the ‘Madden’ NFL video game series.
With the game’s namesake and leading historic contributor having passed away in December 2021, it came as no surprise that the late John Madden would once again be featured on the cover of the game.
Now, to some NFL fans, the release of a new video game may not matter much, yet they would be amazed at the degree to which the sport they watch every Sunday has been influenced by the game.
Teams can now utilise it to workout playbook problems, scout other teams and try and produce nuances in their own gameplan, all whilst still looking at more traditional film footage.
However, it isn’t just teams that loosely use video games to improve their performances, an entire generation of NFL players have been influenced by a game that has become a blockbuster sensation on a global scale.
The passing of the iconic coach really allowed us to gain an insight into just how much his input in the video game helped turn a generation of kids onto American Football, and a handful of such youngsters are currently grown and playing in the league.
Here are 5 NFL players who have been influenced by the Madden game.
#1 - Teddy Bridgewater
Injuries took hold of his career after that point, but the quarterback cited the video game as a key teaching tool during his formative years.
Here's what he said:
“It helps you because you get one more rep than you had in practice, actual practice. Any chance you get to take an extra rep or go the extra step, extra mile, it’s going to be very beneficial transferring it to the field."
"I try to take as many reps as I can, whether it’s playing EA Madden Football or by looking in the playbook, drawing a play or visualising it in my head."
#2 - Jeff Okudah
The Detroit Lions haven’t had much success in recent years, however one of their most talented players at present is 23-year-old cornerback Jeff Okudah.
Okudah was drafted third overall in the 2020 NFL Draft, although injuries have curtailed the progress many in the Motor City were expecting him to make.
He missed all but one game in 2021, and only started six in his rookie year.
His stats don’t look ideal, with only one interception coming in his NFL career, but 41 solo tackles as a rookie is noteworthy for a cornerback.
Okudah’s path to the NFL came via Ohio State, yet he credits the video game as a tool that helped him learn football to the degree that he could turn professional.
Here's what he said:
“I had never watched football before, my thing at the time was more winning and losing, I loved games that I could win. So, playing Madden, I was losing at first to the computer and I didn’t understand the rules."
"However, the competitor in me just wanted to keep getting better at the game. I tell people all the time, I learned the rules from Madden, just me knowing about players, like old players back in the day is literally through Madden. Because I played so much Madden, I started getting up to watch SportsCenter. That’s really how I got a knowledge of the game."
He concluded by saying:
It's pretty cool how it played out, who knows if I had grabbed a baseball game, I might never have been introduced to football."
#3 - Patrick Mahomes
Mahomes is one of the new generation of stars that doesn’t have those worries about trying something on the field that looks like it comes from a video game.
His no-look throws have become a signature, whilst the underarm looping pass to Travis Kelce has kept many a Chiefs drive alive.
Mahomes has gained a lot of this confidence and love of trick plays through his youth spent playing the game.
“I’ve had a lot of great memories, I’ve been playing Madden my whole life. It started off with my dad killing me with Randy Moss, Daunte Culpepper and the Vikings, making me cry in my room."
He also said:
"It obviously had a huge impact on me, playing the video game and kind of learning football by playing it growing up."
#4 - Lamar Jackson
Lamar Jackson arrived in the NFL with some analysts questioning his suitability to be a quarterback in the NFL.
Despite suggestions he’d fall into life as a running back, the Baltimore Ravens star made critics eat their words as he won the NFL MVP in 2019. This led to him being on the cover for the 2021 title.
He was the third youngest player to ever be on the cover, with only Odell Beckham Jr. and Michael Vick being younger than he was.
Jackson’s style of play in real life has been compared to the almost superhuman style of Vick in Madden 04, and he welcomes the comparisons.
“I’ve had Madden for a long time. The first Madden I remember playing is the one with Michael Vick on the cover in 2004. He was unbelievable, I’d play with him. I just remember Vick doing all this crazy stuff, he was unstoppable, I just remember how dynamic he was in the game."
"I really just try to play the game my way, but he was one of the guys who represented a kid coming out of poverty, that’s what he was to us… our idol."
#5 - Derek Carr
The legacy of the Madden video game is legendary in the Carr household, with brothers David and Derek having played the game together when they were younger.
That both managed to reach the NFL as starting quarterbacks may be nothing more than a coincidence, or something related to their genetics, yet Derek Carr believes those video game sessions helped him grasp the fundamentals of the sport.
“I started playing as early as I can even remember. It [Madden] helped a lot, to be honest. I wasn’t on there just mashing buttons or looking for the open guy, I was literally trying to use motion to figure out coverages and things like that."
"I was always trying to go 30-for-30 with my quarterback making good decisions. It helped me to compete whilst putting my feet up."