Calvin Johnson: Madden 13 Cover Boy, Hoping to Avoid the Madden Curse

Josh Berenter@JBerenterCorrespondent IApril 26, 2012

Calvin Johnson: Madden 13 Cover Boy, Hoping to Avoid the Madden Curse

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    If anybody could break a curse, wouldn't it be someone named Megatron?

    ESPN SportsNation announced Wednesday that the man with the most popular name in football will grace the cover of the most popular sports video game in the country.

    After seven weeks of voting and 20 million votes, No. 6 seed Calvin "Megatron" Johnson defeated No. 1 seed Cam Newton in the finals of the March Madness-style 32-player tournament, where fans decided the ultimate winner.

    Johnson dominated his competition, defeating Dwayne Bowe in the first round with 92 percent of the vote, Arian Foster in the second round with 73 percent, Rob Gronkowski in the third with 63 percent, and Aaron Rodgers in the semifinals with 67 percent of the votes.

    No one deserved the cover this year more than Johnson. He played out of his mind last season. The 6'5'', 235-pound beast led all NFL receivers in yards with 1,681 and touchdowns with 17.

    Johnson earned his second Pro Bowl selection and led the Lions to their first winning season since 2000, and their first trip to the playoffs since 1999.

    But some Lions fans probably voted against their beloved receiver, and now are praying Johnson doesn't follow seven of the last nine players to fall victim to the famed "Madden Curse."

    In recent years, every player who's donned the cover of the video game has, in one way or another, been the victim of misfortune. Most players have suffered injuries, while others fell apart mentally, and found themselves out of the league.

    So now that the Lions best player and franchise receiver will grace the cover of Madden 13, are Detroit's chances of making back-to-back trips to the playoffs in 18 years down the drain?

    History says yes. 

    Even if you don't believe in curses, you can't argue with reality.

    Let's take a look at the last seven cases of the Madden Curse.

Madden 12, Peyton Hillis

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    After a breakout season in 2010, Cleveland Browns running back Peyton Hillis won the fan vote for the cover of Madden 12. 

    In 2010, Hillis played all 16 games, rushing for a career high 1,147 yards and 11 touchdowns.

    After winning the competition for the cover, Hillis told he was excited. He embraced the cover and said he wasn't afraid of the Madden Curse.

    But after aggravating a hamstring injury, Hillis played in just 10 games last season, and rushed for 587 yards and three touchdowns.

    While he was sidelined for six games, his erratic behavior fell on deaf ears with his teammates, coaches and the Browns front office. His antics got old very quickly, and the front office was so annoyed by Hillis, they booted him out of town.

    The Browns refused to re-sign him after the 2011 season, which prompted the 6'2'', 250-pound running back to sign with the Kansas City Chiefs in March.

Madden 10, Troy Polamalu

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    Pittsburgh Steelers safety Troy Polamalu shared the cover of Madden 10 with Larry Fitzgerald.

    In 2008, Polamalu made 73 tackles, had seven interceptions and 17 pass deflections. He was selected to the Pro Bowl for the fifth straight year and was one of most feared safeties in football.

    But in 2009, he aggravated a left knee MCL tear and played only five games, recording 20 tackles and three interceptions.

    Just a year removed from winning the Super Bowl, the Steelers missed the playoffs for just the second time in six years.

Madden 08, Vince Young

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    From 2005 through 2007, Vince Young had the most successful years of his life.

    In 2005, he led Texas to a National Championship, in what was arguably the best national title game ever, and was named MVP.

    In 2006, Young was selected third overall by the Tennessee Titans and signed a five-year deal for $58 million. His rookie year, he threw for 2,199 yards and 12 touchdowns on the way to winning AP Offensive Rookie of the Year.

    In 2007, he outdid himself, throwing for 2,546 yards, leading the Titans to their first playoff appearance in four years.

    Naturally after that, Young graced the cover of Madden.

    And that's when his career, and life, went downhill.

    In the first game of the 2008 season, Young went down with a knee injury, but was only expected to miss a few weeks. But when he was ready to return, then-coach Jeff Fisher decided Kerry Collins was a better fit at quarterback for the Titans for the rest of the season.

    After being benched, Young's life spiraled out of control.

    In September 2008, the police were called to the Titans facility after Young's therapist reported to Fisher that Young was suicidal and even had a gun. Stories surfaced claiming Young suffered from severe depression and wanted out of the Titans organization, and out of football.

    He eventually evened out his personal life but was still in the Titans doghouse, prompting his release after the 2010 season. 

Madden 07, Shaun Alexander

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    In 2005, Shaun Alexander rushed for a career high in yards with 1,880 and touchdowns with 27, and was named the NFL MVP.

    He was chosen for the cover of Madden 07, and was never the same.

    From 2000 to 2005, Alexander never missed a game, and from 2001 to 2005, he rushed for at least 1,000 yards every season.

    But in Week 3 of 2006, he fractured his foot and missed six games.

    He rushed for only 896 yards and seven touchdowns that season, just 716 yards and four touchdowns the next year, and after being released by the Seahawks, he signed with the Redskins for the league minimum.

    With the Redskins in 2008, he appeared in just four games, rushing for 24 yards and zero touchdowns. He was released by the Redskins, and just three years after winning the league MVP, Alexander was out of the league.

Madden 06, Donovan McNabb

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    In 2004, Donovan McNabb threw for a career high 3,875 yards and 31 touchdowns.

    But after winning the cover of Madden 06, McNabb suffered a sports hernia in the first game of the 2005 season.

    He played nine games that season and threw for 2,507 yards and 16 touchdowns, but McNabb engaged in a season-long battle with NFL diva Terrell Owens that divided the locker room.

    The Eagles went 6-10 in 2005, and after winning four straight NFC East titles, Philadelphia missed the playoffs for the first time in five years.

    McNabb had a few nice years in Philadelphia after that but never returned to form and was traded to Washington in April 2010 for two mid-round draft picks.

    After an abysmal year for the Redskins, McNabb was benched in favor of Rex Grossman—yes, that Rex Grossman—and was traded again to the Minnesota Vikings. This time for worse draft picks.

    Minnesota didn't work out either, and after playing six games, throwing for 1,026 yards and four touchdowns, McNabb was released and currently remains without a team.

Madden 05, Ray Lewis

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    In 2003, Ray Lewis recorded 161 tackles and six interceptions, leading the Baltimore Ravens to a playoff berth and an AFC North championship.

    He was named NFL Defensive Player of the Year, and became the cover boy for Madden 05.

    But after being on the cover, Lewis didn't record an interception for the first time in his career in 2004, and missed the final game of the season after breaking his wrist.

    The Ravens missed the playoffs for just the second time in five years.

    Lewis also missed 10 games the next season with a recurring hamstring injury.

Madden 04, Michael Vick

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    Everybody knows about Michael Vick's dog issues, but not many people know about his on-field issues that happened after gracing the cover of Madden 04.

    In 2002, he earned the starting role, and Vick took a team with a dismal 16-32 record over the previous three years and led them to a respectable 9-6-1 finish and a spot in the playoffs as a wild card.  

    He passed for 2,936 yards, rushed for 777 yards and scored 24 touchdowns in the regular season.

    In 2003, one day after Madden 04 was released with Vick on the cover, he was injured during a preseason game against the Baltimore Ravens, suffering a fractured right fibula.

    Vick played in only the last five games that season, finishing with just 585 yards passing and four touchdowns. The Falcons were already out of playoff contention by the time Vick returned from his injury, and finished a lowly 5-11.