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