Sanders, representing the old school, is facing off with Peterson, representing the new school, for the chance to grace the cover of Madden 25. Of the two, Sanders is more deserving of the honor.
This would technically be the second time he's been on the cover of the video game, as he was in the background image on the cover of Madden 2000. John Madden was the focus of the cover, so Sanders was a bit hard done. This year, Sanders would get prime placement on a historic edition of the video game franchise.
A strong case could be made that Peterson, rather than Sanders, deserves to be on the cover; however, he has plenty of time to earn himself a cover. This year is a celebration of Madden's 25-year history, so it makes sense to have a legend of the game on the cover.
One of the greatest running backs in history, Sanders would have gone down as the best, hands down, should he have chosen to prolong his career rather than retiring early. You can't blame him for bowing out when he did, though, as the NFL is littered with running backs who held on too long and are paying the price as a result.
Although it seems hard to believe, by the time the 2013 season kicks off, it will have been 15 years since Sanders was last on a football field. There's an entire generation of fans that are growing up with the game completely unaware of how incredible he was to watch.
Sure they've heard the name, but many don't truly understand what Sanders was capable of. Seeing the player on the cover of their favorite video game will lead those who don't know about Sanders' pure greatness to look him up on YouTube, Pro Football Reference, NFL.com, etc.
Who deserves the Madden 25 cover?
He was a high-risk, high-reward player. Sometimes Sanders would get stopped behind the line of scrimmage while trying to create more yardage. But those moments where he would escape several defenders and get in the open field were something else.
He's one of the few players in recent memory that really, truly looked like he was out of a video game. Walter Payton, Emmitt Smith and Jim Brown were all arguably better running backs, but they lacked the excitement of Sanders. He was capable of the kind of winding runs that you could only hope to accomplish in Madden—and that's only if you put the difficulty on rookie level.
Peterson is capable of thrilling runs himself, but there's a certain ruthless efficiency that doesn't quite match the magic of Sanders.
There's a new game every year, but there's something special about the 25th anniversary of the Madden franchise. Sanders was a once-in-a-lifetime player, and Madden 25 is a once-in-a-lifetime edition of this iconic game.