Antonio Brown is featured on the cover of EA Sports’ Madden NFL 19, the game that marks the 30th anniversary for the franchise. He follows Tom Brady, who graced the cover for the 2018’s “G.O.A.T Edition.”
Brown was understandably pumped about landing the coveted spot.
“To be the cover athlete on a game that has inspired my life and taught me so much is a tremendous honor,” Brown said in an interview with SB Nation. “When it’s all said and done, this is going to be a nice thing on the list of things to remember; something my kids can remember.
“To be the first Steelers player on the cover by himself is a tremendous honor. I get to represent the organization, myself, my family on the cover of Madden. It’s a huge accomplishment.”
EA Sports tweeted the announcement:
The #Madden19 cover is BOOMIN' with @AB84! pic.twitter.com/opOwtw6lUr— EA SPORTS Madden NFL (@EAMaddenNFL) July 18, 2018
Madden NFL 19 will officially come out on Aug. 10.
It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that Brown is on the new Madden cover
This pairing makes sense for a few reasons:
1) Brown is arguably the best receiver in the NFL right now. In 2017, Brown led the league in receiving with 1,533 yards, despite playing in just 14 games. It was the second time in his career that Brown ended the season as the NFL’s leading receiver.
He put up 213 yards against the Ravens in Week 14, his final full game of the regular season before he had to exit early a week later with a calf injury. He returned for the playoffs, where his seven catches went for a game-high 132 yards and two touchdowns in a 45-42 loss to the Jaguars.
In each of the last five seasons, Brown has finished with at least 100 catches and has topped 1,200 receiving yards.
2) AB has teamed up with video games before. Brown isn’t just one of the best players in the NFL today. He’s also one of the biggest personalities, and he’s shown his love for video games in unique ways, sometimes partnering with brands to do so.
First, there was his Tetris haircut. Then he appeared in a Madden commercial, singing a parody of The Weeknd’s hit “Can’t Feel My Face.”
Brown is also touchdown celebration enthusiast, and early last season, he had an endorsement deal with Destiny 2 for that involved a specific dance after he found the end zone.
3) EA may have ever so slightly tipped its hat. In May, another receiver — Terrell Owens — was unveiled as the cover athlete for Madden 19 Hall of Fame.
In June, EA Sports announced that Brown was one of a seven players who earned a 99 overall rating for the game, the most since the 2007 version of Madden. This is the first time Brown has joined the 99 club — something he was excited about when it was revealed. Brown was also quick to show off the cleats that EA sent him welcoming him to the exclusive club:
99 Club kicks from @EAMaddenNFL pic.twitter.com/wMCCLgeqJE— Antonio Brown (@AB84) July 2, 2018
The other six players this year, including Brady, Aaron Rodgers, and Von Miller, have all received the rating in previous editions of Madden.
Why is this such a big deal?
The cover reveal for the Madden games has been a big deal since 2000, when John Madden himself stopped being the primary figure on the cover. In previous years, Madden had shared the cover with athletes like Barry Sanders and Garrison Hearst, but this was the first time an NFL player was on the cover solo. That 2001 cover featured Eddie George, and ever since then, it’s something of an honor for the player who is chosen.
However, it has gained some notoriety due to the “Madden Curse,” which refers to the high number of players who suffered an injury or misfortune after being on the cover. But just like the so-called Sports Illustrated cover jinx, it’s not really a thing.
Some regression for a player coming off a great year is to be expected, and injuries are common in football. Last year, Brady, in complete defiance and mockery of the curse, broke mirrors and intentionally walked under ladders.
Then at age 40, he stayed healthy, won the NFL MVP Award, and led his the Patriots to another Super Bowl appearance. Some might argue that Brady suffered from the curse when he failed to secure a sixth Lombardi Trophy, but that’s just illy.
There was a few years where the fans were allowed to vote for the cover athlete, which led to the surprising campaign that allowed Peyton Hillis on the cover of Madden NFL 12. Hillis’ 2011 season was a bust, but Calvin Johnson followed the next year and put together the best year of his career.
Brown was one of four candidates for the Madden NFL 2016 cover, before it was whittled down to two finalists. In the final fan vote, Odell Beckham Jr. beat out Rob Gronkowski (who graced the cover of the ‘17 edition).
Fan voting eventually went away the next year, giving EA its control back. This year, it chose Brown for the cover, and it’s easy to see why.