Richard Sherman

SEC leads all conferences with Madden NFL video game covers

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There may no longer be an NCAA Football video game produced by EA Sports, but that does not mean the SEC cannot find one more thing to brag about. With wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. of the New York Giants, and previously of LSU, being named the cover athlete for Madden NFL 16, the annual NFL video game published by EA Sports, the SEC now has four all-time cover athletes on the most popular sports video game in the country. No other active conference has more than two Madden cover athletes.

LSU’s Beckham Jr. is the first Tigers player to appear on the cover of Madden. He joins Georgia’s Garrison Hearst (Madden NFL 99, the first cover athlete in the franchise’s history), Alabama’s Shaun Alexander (Madden NFL 07) and Peyton Hillis of Arkansas (Madden NFL 12). The SEC actually ties the old Big East for most all-time cover athletes. The Big East is the only conference to have a former Big East player appear on the cover in three successive seasons with Virginia Tech’s Michael Vick (Madden NFL 2004), Miami’s Ray Lewis (Madden NFL 2005) and Syracuse’s Donovan McNabb (Madden NFL 06). The Big East’s last representative on the cover was former Pittsburgh wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald (Madden NFL 10).

The ACC, Big 12, Big Ten and Pac-12 all have had two cover athletes each. Joining the Big East in the defunct conference category of Madden cover athletes are the Big 8 and WAC, each with one cover athlete. Barry Sanders (Madden NFL 25; he technically appeared on the cover of Madden NFL 2000 too, but that was as a background image behind John Madden) of Oklahoma State played in the Big 8 and Marshall Faulk (Madden NFL 2003) played at San Diego State when the Aztecs were in the WAC.

One more note for those with an interest. Two players from independent programs have been featured on the cover of the Madden NFL series, and neither hailed from Notre Dame. UCF’s Daunte Culpepper (Madden NFL 2002) and Southern Mississippi’s Brett Favre (Madden NFL 09) have each graced the cover. At the time these quarterbacks were throwing passes on Saturday afternoons though, both programs were independent programs.

What about Heisman Trophy winners on the cover? There have been three of them on the cover of Madden. In addition to Sanders, Ohio State’s Eddie George (Madden NFL 2001) and Vince Young of Texas (Madden NFL 08) have appeared on the cover of the game.

Madden NFL 99 – Garrison Hearst, Georgia

Madden NFL 2000 – John Madden (Barry Sanders was in the background image, but not specifically featured)

Madden NFL 2001 – Eddie George, Ohio State

Madden NFL 2002 – Daunte Culpepper, UCF

Madden NFL 2003 – Marshall Faulk, San Diego State, WAC

Madden NFL 2004 – Michael Vick, Virginia Tech

Madden NFL 2005 – Ray Lewis, Miami

Madden NFL 06 – Donovan McNabb, Syracuse

Madden NFL 07 – Shaun Alexander, Alabama

Madden NFL 08 – Vince Young, Texas

Madden NFL 09 – Brett Favre, Southern Miss

Madden NFL 10 – Troy Polamalu, USC; Larry Fitzgerald, Pittsburgh

Madden NFL 11 – Drew Brees, Purdue

Madden NFL 12 – Peyton Hillis, Arkansas

Madden NFL 13 – Calvin Johnson, Georgia Tech

Madden NFL 25 – Barry Sanders, Oklahoma State; Adrian Peterson, Oklahoma

Madden NFL 15 – Richard Sherman, Stanford

Madden NFL 16 – Odell Beckham Jr., LSU

Seahawks Michael Bennett: ‘NCAA is one of the biggest scams’

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A pair of Seattle Seahawks didn’t pull any punches when they were asked about the plight of student-athletes and what they believe is the NCAA’s exploitation of young men and women.

Defensive end Michael Bennett and cornerback Richard Sherman were asked about their college days during Thursday’s Super Bowl media day, and their replies couldn’t have been more biting.

“I think the NCAA is one of the biggest scams in America,” Bennett told ESPN.com’s Terry Blount. “These kids put so much on the line. They [the NCAA] say, ‘We give you a free degree.’ That’s like me owning a restaurant and saying, ‘I’ll give you a free burger.’ It makes me so mad and irate. Universities need to do more for the student-[athletes].”

Sherman’s speech revolved around the daily habits of a college athlete.

“I don’t think college athletes are given enough time to take advantage of the free education they’re given,” Sherman said. “It’s frustrating because a lot of people get upset with student-athletes and say you’re not focused on school and not taking advantage of the opportunity you’re given.

“I would love for a regular student, for just one semester, to have a student-athlete schedule during the season and show me how you balance that. Show me how you would schedule your classes when you can’t schedule classes for 2 to 6 o’clock on any given day.

“Show me how you’re going to get all your work done when you get out [of practice and meetings] at 7:30 or so and have a test the next day and you’re dead tired from practice and you still have to study and get the same work done.”

Plenty of “regular students” put in the same amount of time — if not more — than a typical student-athlete.

Furthermore, student debt is at all-time high. But, go on, Mr. Sherman.

“I tell you from experience that one time I had negative 40 bucks in my account,” Sherman added. “It was in the negative more times than positive. You have to make a decision whether you put gas in your car or get a meal.

“People say you get room and board and they pay for your education. But to [the school officials’] knowledge, you’re there to play football. Those are the things coaches tell you every day. Luckily I was blessed to go to Stanford, a school primarily focused on academics. But as [former Stanford coach] Jim Harbaugh would attest, we were still there to play football.”

There is no denying that college football is in a transitory stage. Last year’s ruling in the Ed O’Bannon case irrevocably changed what the meaning of “student-athlete” can actually be. The NCAA also granted the Power Five conferences autonomy that will allow those schools to better service the needs of their student-athletes.

Bennett wasn’t finished ripping the system, though.

“I think there are very few schools that actually care about the players,” Bennett said. “Guys break their legs and they get the worst surgery they could possibly get by the worst doctors with the worst treatment.”

However, the former Texas A&M Aggie provided a solution that would ease his concerns.

“I think the NCAA should come up with a plan for college athletes to receive some of the money they bring into the schools. My school, Texas A&M, I think makes $50 million just on jersey sales. So I would say pay $60,000 [to student-athletes] for every year you stay in college. Keep that in a 401(k). After you graduate, hold that money until you are a certain age and then you get the money.”

Some day this might happen. It may be closer to happening than it isn’t. Until then, scholarship athletes still receive an education without paying or paying very little to gain such an invaluable asset.

Jameis Winston says he would pass on anyone, including Richard Sherman

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If there is one thing we should clearly know about Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston by now, it is that he is never one to lack confidence in his own abilities once he steps onto the field. Few players have the ability to block out off-the-field issues and battle back in moments of adversity on the field the way Winston has proven over the course of the past two seasons. So it should come to no surprise Winston feels confident in being able to throw the football in the Rose Bowl against Oregon. Perhaps Winston is already looking ahead to the NFL as well, because he did not stop there.

Winston even suggested he would feel good about throwing the football against anybody, including one of the NFL’s top defensive backs, Richard Sherman of the Seattle Seahawks.

Winston may or may not enter the 2015 NFL Draft, but it is just a guess that whenever Winston and Sherman do happen to cross paths, Sherman will have a few things to say to the Florida State quarterback.