In honor of the video game’s 25-year anniversary, publisher Electronic Arts and ESPN’s SportsNation hosted a tournament-style fan vote featuring 64 players: 32 current stars and 32 NFL legends. After the dust had settled and 40 million votes later, Hall of Famer and former Detroit Lions running back Barry Sanders will grace the cover of Madden NFL 25, beating current Vikings running Adrian Peterson by winning 58% of fan votes.
Sanders beat out Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis — fresh off retirement and a Super Bowl title — retired San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Jerry Rice and quarterback Joe Montana en route to claiming the cover.
Sanders is the perfect fit as Madden NFL 25 cover star, as this year’s game emphasizes the “NFL ball-carrier.” A precision modifier will allow players to perform specific moves to dodge defenders or make breaks on a pass. Other tweaks such as improved tackling, recovering from stumbles during a run and upgrades to cutting while on the run are also featured.
The former Lions star loves Madden, and often serves as referee to his young sons “because it gets pretty competitive when they do play.” As the pro football video game has evolved in 25 years, Sanders is impressed with its advancements. Sanders’ inclusion marks back-to-back years for Detroit Lions players featured on the Madden cover, following wide receiver Calvin Johnson.
“It captures the game so well,” says Sanders. “You really get a feel and a sense for playing the game, and (its) nuances. Offense and defense, the formations, coverages, audibles — everything that goes into designing each play is pretty detailed. The game that I first played as a kid, (players) were more like stick figures. You couldn’t really tell it was a football game, except you could see the grid lines on the field. It’s amazing how far the game has come.”