Total Nerd The Best Madden NFL Cover Athletes  

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List Rules Vote for your favorite Madden NFL cover athletes.

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.
Adrian Peterson is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best Madden NFL Cover Athletes
Photo:  uploaded by Arthur Roderick

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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Larry Fitzgerald is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best Madden NFL Cover Athletes
Photo:  uploaded by Arthur Roderick
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Larry Fitzgerald


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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Barry Sanders is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best Madden NFL Cover Athletes
Photo: EA Sports
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Barry Sanders


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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