There are those who dream of growing up and appearing on the cover of the Madden video game. The only problem is that some NFL stars who achieve that dream seem to be struck with a curse soon after being the face of a game purchased by millions. The "Madden curse" is no secret and while some players have done just fine after being the cover athlete, others have had disaster strike. So is the curse real? The following five examples provide some strong evidence.
5. Peyton Hillis, Madden 12
Peyton Hillis broke out as a star in 2010 with the Cleveland Browns with 1,177 yards and 11 touchdowns. His success made him the winner of a fan vote to appear on Madden 12 and the curse was on. Hillis dealt with personal issues in 2011 and started demanding a big contract. The final result was 587 rushing yards and only three touchdowns. The Browns were finished with him and Hillis never recreated his 2010 success.
4. Barry Sanders, Madden 2000
Barry Sanders has actually appeared on the cover twice. Younger fans know him for being on one version of the Madden 25 cover, but before that he appeared in the background on the Madden 2000 cover behind the game's namesake. The game came out before the 1999 season and Sanders would never appear on the field again after announcing his shocking retirement that July. This version of the curse was so bad it led to Sanders being out of the league entirely and was a huge blow to the Lions franchise.
3. Adrian Peterson, Madden 25 (2014)
Some Madden players received the version of Madden 25 with Adrian Peterson on the cover instead of Sanders. The Minnesota Vikings back was a superstar at the time. Then came child abuse charges that limited him to one single game in 2014. This was a self-inflicted problem and a form of the curse that hurt the Vikings in a unique new way. Peterson did recover to have 1,485 yards in 2015, but his reputation was shattered and he was let go before the 2017 season.
2. Vince Young, Madden 08
Vince Young was a superstar in college and did well enough in his first two NFL seasons with the Tennessee Titans to land on the cover of Madden 08. That came before the 2007 season and Young's curse was a two-year decline. He went from Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2006 to throwing only nine touchdowns and 17 interceptions in 2007. He then only made one start in 2008 and was benched in favor of Kerry Collins. Young looked like a future star in 2006 and being chosen for the cover reflected that. But he faded fast and made his final NFL start in 2011.
1. Michael Vick, Madden 04
Michael Vick was put on the cover of Madden 04 after two great seasons with the Atlanta Falcons. The hype was real and the game featured a nearly unstoppable version of the dual-threat quarterback. Then Vick broke his leg in the 2003 preseason and ended up playing in only five games. Many remember Vick for missing two full seasons for his role in a dog-fighting ring. Yet, his first setback came via the Madden curse.