Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick's bid to become the first person to repeat as Madden NFL cover star since John Madden himself has fallen short. Electronic Arts today announced that Cleveland Browns running back Peyton Hillis has been chosen to front Madden NFL 12 by the series' fan base. According to ESPN, Hillis beat Vick by a margin of 66 percent to 34 percent.
Hillis emerged as the winner from an EA bracket of 32 potential stars wherein fans were allowed to vote for their preferred cover athlete. The bracket featured one player from each NFL team except the Seattle Seahawks, which were represented by its fan base, "The 12th Man."
Entering his fourth year as a pro, Hillis is coming off a breakout campaign with the Browns that saw him rack up 1,177 yards and 11 touchdowns on the ground and another 477 yards and two TDs through the air. Perhaps more impressive than his stats on the field with a mediocre Browns team (5-11) was the list of talent Hillis upended to earn the cover spot. The Browns rusher steamrolled his way onto the Madden NFL 12 box art through some big names, including Vick; Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan; and Aaron Rodgers, quarterback of the reigning Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers.
One reason the naming of the Madden cover athlete garners attention is due to the long-running "Madden Curse," which dictates that calamity will befall any player unfortunate enough to grace the game's packaging. After appearing on the Madden NFL 10 cover, Troy Polamalu suffered a knee injury in the second quarter of that season's opening game. Madden NFL 2008's cover athlete, Vince Young, received a knee injury that caused his backup quarterback, Kerry Collins, to start most of the 2008 season.
After a string of injuries, 2007 cover star Shaun Alexander went from being the NFL's Most Valuable Player to being a backup running back in just two years. Madden NFL 06 cover athlete Donovan McNabb suffered a season-ending sports hernia halfway through the season after he was named cover athlete. Additionally, 2004 cover athlete Michael Vick missed most of the 2004 season after breaking his leg and was incarcerated after being convicted on a series of gambling and dogfighting-related felonies in 2007.