Nearly 20 million votes put the likeness of Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson on the cover of last year’s NFL Madden 13, the latest iteration of the long-running and ultra-popular video game series. It’s a somewhat nebulous honor for the player who is chosen each year, but it does at least indicate that he is considered among the league’s best performers. Since fan voting became part of the process in 2011, it also indicates a player’s nationwide popularity, of course. And if there is a so-called “Madden Cover Jinx,” it certainly didn’t bite Johnson last year, as he set a new NFL record with 1,964 receiving yards last year.
Beginning Monday, it will be time for fans to vote again, this time to decide which player will grace the cover of the milestone NFL Madden 25, which is obviously being named for where it lands in the overall series and not a specific year, as with previous versions. Once again, there will be a nominee from each of the NFL’s 32 teams, but this time around there’s a twist.
As explained here, there will be a field of 64 candidates this year, as EA SPORTS will pit the 32 current stars on one side of the bracket against 32 of the league’s “greatest legends.” The final vote will between the winner of the current-star bracket against the winner of the legends bracket.
The voting process will begin next Monday, March 11, at 4:00 p.m. ET, here on ESPN.com. The exact schedule of the round-by-round voting is not indicated on the site, but last year’s final reveal coincided roughly with the beginning of the NFL Draft in late April.
RB LeGarrette Blount was the Buccaneers’ representative in last year’s bracket, but he fell in the first round to #1 seed and eventual finalist Cam Newton of the Panthers. Last year’s Final Four was Johnson, Newton, San Francisco linebacker Patrick Willis and Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers. All four could be strong candidates again in 2012, but they’ll have more competition than ever with the opposing bracket of legends. One can imagine a final vote between, say, Tom Brady and Joe Montana; Calvin Johnson and Jerry Rice; J.J. Watt and Reggie White; or Adrian Peterson and Emmitt Smith. Check back on ESPN on Monday to see which competitors made the field.