The Best Madden NFL Cover Athletes Football Players (American)

The Best Madden NFL Cover Athletes

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Each year since 1999, the Madden NFL video game has selected one notable National Football League player to grace the cover of the game. These Madden NFL cover athletes were each selected for the honor for one reason or another, such as being the best in the league at their position, winning the Super Bowl or doing something really awesome.

The popular football video game was first released in 1988 and initially featured Pro Football Hall of Fame former player turned broadcaster John Madden on the cover. In 1999, Electronic Arts started the trend of selecting one NFL player to appear on the cover, thus starting the Madden NFL cover athlete tradition. Garrison Hearst was the first to take the cover from Madden, appearing on the video game in 1999. Many of the best quarterbacks of all time have also graced the cover since.

While the Madden NFL cover athletes receive the distinction of gracing the cover of the video game and landing in the homes of millions of football fans around the globe, many believe that with great glory comes the Madden Curse.

Similar to athletes who have appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated magazine, many who were selected to appear on Madden NFL saw some sort of misfortune in the following season such as injury or legal trouble. Accordingly, fans often campaign against their favorite player appearing on the cover out of fear of the curse.

Curse or not, just like the NCAA Football cover athletes, the football players who have appeared on Madden NFL received a great honor that will be remembered for years to come. Vote up the best Madden NFL covers, for all Madden covers, and let everyone know who you think was most affected by the Madden curse in the comments section.

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    For Madden 25 EA Sports polled fans as to who should grace the cover. The people voted and EA Sports listened--kind of. In April, legendary Detroit Lions running back Barry Sanders defeated Minnesota Vikings' Adrian Peterson in the finals of a tournament to determine who would grace the 25th edition of the Madden video game franchise.

    Now, EA Sports is splitting the honor, leaving Sanders as the cover athlete for the XBox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions of the game, while going with Peterson for the next generation consoles, XBox One and PlayStation 4.
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    Though not his best season, Detroit Lions running back Barry Sanders was honored for his stellar career with a Madden NFL 2000 cover selection. During his career, Sanders won the Heisman Trophy, was selected as the NFL MVP and was arguably regarded as the best running back to play the game. Though Madden NFL 2000 featured John Madden in the foreground on the cover, Sanders can be seen in one edition of the game in the background.
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    Fierce linebacker Ray Lewis of the Baltimore Ravens was honored with the Madden NFL 2005 selection as one of the best at his position in the history of the game. Among other awards, Lewis helped the Ravens win Super Bowl XXXV and became the first linebacker to be selected as the Super Bowl MVP.
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    Bringing joy to an area devastated by Hurricane Katrina, Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints won their first Super Bowl in 2010. As one bonus for the accomplishment, Brees was named the cover athlete for Madden NFL 2011 as selected by voters.
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    Alongside Troy Polamalu, Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald was the second player on the Madden NFL 2010 cover. Fitzgerald faced Polamalu in Super Bowl XLIII and though the Cardinals were on the losing end of the game, Fitzgerald set several league postseason records and was recognized by the video game.
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    For the first time, the cover of Madden NFL featured two top football players for the 2010 edition. Safety Troy Polamalu, having just won the Super Bowl with his Pittsburgh Steelers, was one of the two selected.
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    Before he was an analyst for the NFL Network, Marshall Faulk was a running back for the Indianapolis Colts and St. Louis Rams. The seven-time Pro Bowl selection earned the honor of appearing on Madden NFL 2003 late in his career which included a Super Bowl championship and numerous personal awards.
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    To celebrate the end of a long career of legendary quarterback Brett Favre, EA Sports selected the former Green Bay Packer to appear on the cover of Madden NFL 2009 in his Packer green and yellow. Favre however had other plans and came out of retirement (for the first time) to join the New York Jets. As usual, misfortune followed the cover athlete as he was implicated in a sexting scandal in 2010.
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    Quarterback Michael Vick was selected for the Madden NFL 2004 cover for his performance with the Atlanta Falcons. One day after the video game was released he broke his leg and missed the next 11 games. Other off-field issues, including a prison stay, followed in the next few years.
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    After leading the Philadelphia Eagles to the Super Bowl, quarterback Donovan McNabb fell under the Madden Curse after he appeared on the cover of the game in its 2006 edition. Just as several had before, McNabb suffered a season-ending injury during the year when he tore his ACL in a game against the Tennessee Titans.
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    After winning the Heisman Trophy in college, running back Eddie George joined the Tennessee Titans and reached the peak of his career prior to his Madden NFL 2011 cover appearance by taking the team to Super Bowl XXXIV. Unfortunately for George, the Titans fell in the Super Bowl to the St. Louis Rams and his production in subsequent seasons declined.
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    Despite leading the Minnesota Vikings to a 5-11 record in 2001, quarterback Daunte Culpepper was selected as the Madden NFL 2002 cover athlete after his strong play during the year. Culpepper was however injured late in the 2011 season which resulted in a couple bad years, but he bounced back in 2004 to set an NFL record for yardage by a quarterback in a single season.
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    Coming in after he was named the NFL MVP, running back Shaun Alexander added Madden NFL cover athlete to his resume in 2007. Unfortunately after receiving the honor, Alexander missed six games during the 2006 season after breaking his foot in a game against the New York Giants.
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    Rob Gronkowski
    Photo: EA Sports
    New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski made the cover of Madden NFL 17 in 2016.
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    Standout college football quarterback and two-time Rose Bowl MVP Vince Young was selected to front the 2008 edition of Madden NFL after a stellar rookie season. Young had favorable a season immediately after the selection however in December 2008 he was troubled by off-field issues which in turn affected his play.
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    Garrison Hearst became the first Madden NFL cover athlete when he appeared on the cover of the video game in 1999. The honor came after Hearst had a career season in 1998 in which he set San Francisco 49ers records for rushing yards in a season, combined yards in a season and rushing yards in a game.
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    Appearing on one version of the cover of Madden NFL 2000, Green Bay Packers running back Dorsey Levens was believed to be the first victim of the so-called Madden Curse. After he was selected for the cover, Levens missed most of the 2000 season with a knee injury and was later released by the Packers.
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    Though his team didn't fare well in the 2010 season, Cleveland Browns running back Peyton Hillis was selected by fans as the Madden NFL 2012 cover athlete. Hillis had a breakout 2010 campaign in which he put up 270 carries for 1,177 yards and 11 touchdowns.
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