Josh Allen doesn’t remember the team he was playing with in Madden. Recalling a memory from his childhood in Firebaugh, California, he doesn’t think he and his babysitter even finished the game. What he does remember: He was playing and stuck a Tic Tac up his nose.
And he ended up visiting a doctor to get it out. Of all the games of Madden the Buffalo Bills quarterback has played throughout his 27 years of life, the one he didn’t finish is the most memorable. Obviously.
“The doctor covered my nose and I had to blow out really hard,” Allen told ESPN. “He finally got it out of there. I’ll never forget that one. Never forget that one.
“I was playing Madden while it happened.”
The tales of the Madden NFL 24 cover athlete playing the game are myriad. They go from the inane (the Tic Tac story) to the competitive to the helpful — so much so that Allen believes it aided him in becoming one of the best quarterbacks in the real NFL.
One of Allen’s earliest football memories is of playing Madden 2003, with then-St. Louis Rams running back Marshall Faulk on the cover. Allen and his brother had continuous battles — and Allen always wanted to be his favorite team, the San Francisco 49ers.
Allen was part of one of the first generations of kids to have Madden video game culture as a through line throughout their football lives. The game, which was first released in 1988, became more than entertainment. Allen said his earliest teachings of real football came through the game.
“I played so much,” Allen said. “I knew what Cover 2 was, it was two-high safeties. I knew Cover 1 was man, Cover 3 was everybody gets a third of the field, and three deep, four under, all that stuff. But even like the nuances of the game, where guys are lining up and gun snaps and five-step drops and penalties, believe it or not offsides and false starts and roughing the passer and [pass interference].
“I literally learned it from playing the game.”
By the time he played tackle football at age 9 or 10, his Madden base of knowledge helped. Growing up it was the only game he wanted to play.
His most common opponent as a kid? His younger brother, Jason. They had a rule — whoever got to the controllers first got to be the home team and pick which team they wanted play as. It was typically a race from car to console to earn the right.
“It was a huge fight to get to be the home team and [have] home advantage,” Allen said, before detailing one in-game bit of gamesmanship he recalls. “Pressing pause as he’s trying to kick a game-winning field goal to try and mess him up.”
The little bit of dirty Madden trickery aside, Allen continued playing throughout his childhood and into college. As he grew, he kept using the 49ers — in versions of the game from 2005 to ’07, he would occasionally insert Ken Dorsey as the team’s quarterback instead of the listed starter, an amusing coincidence now because Dorsey is Allen’s offensive coordinator in Buffalo.
Allen played the minigames and explored the create-a-player mode — usually it would entail “Josh Allen, quarterback,” unless he wanted to get really creative.
“I’d go off the rails and make a really short guy and make him really big and put him at running back,” Allen said. “Just an absolute beast doing the combine training and stuff like that. It was good times.”
When he got to college, he’d play friends and teammates, with the loser of the game often having to buy dinner. Allen believes he has an overall winning record in his Madden career, but it’s a game that carried him from the start of how he thought about football to now, when he’s on the cover of the game hoping to inspire the next generation of players like him.
“Madden has been such a special thing in my heart,” Allen said, “because I do have such fond memories of playing with my family and friends.”
Madden NFL 24 cover athlete Josh Allen’s long love of the game